HOSPITALITY | Health & Safety in the Kitchen

A commercial kitchen can be a very dangerous working environment.

Even more so with a Gordon Ramsay style head chef!

When you’ve got kitchen and waiting on staff dashing back and forth all day long in compact areas there are lots of hazards to contend with.

These can include:

  • Hot surfaces
  • Harmful substances
  • Sharp implements
  • Electrical and gas equipment.

These all increase the likelihood of an incident and the level of harm when an incident does occur.

Indeed, serious incidents are all too common in commercial kitchens.

If the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) finds safety regulations have not been followed, a heavy fine will likely be imposed.

It is therefore vital you understand and properly manage Health & Safety in your kitchen.

So, where do you start?

The HSE identify the following as common causes of incidents in kitchens.

Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls often occur due to wet floors. It is important to immediately clean up any spillages and to dry the floor.

Action should include placing warning signs saying ‘wet floor’ and even cordoning off certain areas after cleaning until the floors are dry.

Uneven flooring or loose or damaged floor tiles are also often responsible for slips and trips. Floors should be well maintained and passageways or areas where staff might walk kept free from obstructions or obstacles.

Manual Handling

Pay special attention to things that are lifted in the kitchen, especially as certain items can be extremely heavy and/or difficult to manoeuvre.

Staff should be instructed on proper lifting techniques and to never push, pull or drag heavy items as they might suffer a musculoskeletal injury. Where items are heavy, colleagues should be asked to help lift and, where possible, a lifting device should first be used.


Great care needs to be taken when using knives and also be wary of glass objects. Kitchen workers need to follow safe procedures when using knives and other sharp utensils and when handling glass items as they can cause severe cuts.

Exposure to Hot or Harmful Substances

Extreme care must be taken when working with or close to hot liquids – they should always be covered when not directly worked with. Be careful when carrying pans or containers with hot liquids since they can otherwise splash and scald.

Safe procedures should be in place for certain activities such as opening steam doors and draining and cleaning fat fryers.

Cleaning materials can be harmful if handled incorrectly and can cause skin problems. Even handling certain foods can cause dermatitis and other skin conditions such as eczema. They are also common causes of absenteeism in the catering and hospitality industry.

TGI Chef Burnt

A kitchen chef was burnt with boiling oil after a restaurant failed to follow Health & Safety standards and ensure the safety of its employees.

Other Concerns

The risk of fire is never far away in kitchens. It is important all electrical and gas appliances are fully maintained and suited for the job. Proper ventilation will also need to be in place.

Common issues which can increase the likelihood of incidents include a failure to properly assess the risks, poor communication and a lack of allocated responsibility for ensuring health and safety procedures in the kitchen are followed. 

As an employer, you’re legally required to carry out a full risk assessment of your kitchen facilities and must make sure:

  • All equipment complies with the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998
  • Staff using your equipment have been fully trained and are competent to do so

Additionally, all equipment connected to an electricity or gas supply should be installed by a suitably qualified engineer and be regularly tested by an appropriate professional.

Takeaway Tips

Some top tips to avoid incidents in commercial ktichens include:

  • When carrying knives, always keep them pointed down to the ground – never front facing
  • When moving hot pots, pans and trays, always tell people – if need be shout hot, hot!
  • When gas is smelled, always check appliances
  • Keep floors clear and dry at all times – immediately clean up any oil or liquid spills
  • Do not throw broken glass in the rubbish without wrapping it
  • Never overload electrical circuits and never plug or unplug electrical cords with wet hands
  • Do not take a hot glass dish from the oven and put it on a wet surface or in cold water
  • Always check equipment before leaving
  • Make sure cookers, grills and whatever else are turned off
  • Test and tag your equipment regularly or at least do a visual inspection
  • Make sure you document evidence you have looked for kitchen hazards and put in place appropriate risk controls
  • Make sure kitchen safety is included in regular safety meetings

Broadly speaking, the steps you should take in relation to the risks in a kitchen environment are the same as those which should be taken in relation to risks in other parts of the workplace. But in kitchens, the focus tends to be on food safety and hygiene issues. While food and hygiene are crucial, it is also essential to be mindful of the wider Health & Safety risks that can arise in kitchens.

If all the Health & Safety risks are not fully considered, it may only be a matter of time before someone is harmed. But here’s the thing – many incidents in kitchens can readily be avoided if effective Health & Safety policies and procedures are set up. This is why getting the help from a specialist will really benefit any hospitality business.

How We Can Help

Have you considered all the Health & Safety risks in your kitchen? Do you have appropriate policies and procedures in place? Why not let us help?

Ellis Whittam make simple sense of the law, allowing you to understand your risk and what needs doing.

We are so confident in how we can support you, we will even go as far as to act as one of your ‘legally required’ competent persons.

A Health & Safety consultant with specific catering and hospitality experience will help to identify the hazards in your kitchen and manage the risks.

We even support you with Employment Law and HR. So if you do have a Gordon Ramsey in your kitchen, we can help with that too.

Contact us to learn about our fixed fee, unlimited support service.

Let's start talking on 0345 226 8393 or complete the form below.

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We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

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