Chemical safety and the kitchen
When tasked with thinking about the safety restaurant hazards of a restaurant, many will first think of items such as food handling, slips, falls and cuts.
However, it is an often non-cited item that presents one of the greatest risk-chemical handling.
Sanitizers, soaps, oven cleaners, deep fryer cleaners, degreasers, floor cleansers and others are all used in nearly every restaurant across the country.
These chemicals present a list of hazards that include:
- Skin irritation. Soaps and detergents can cause skin irritation.
- Infections. Broken skin can be infected or burned from hazardous chemicals.
- Burns. Chemicals like oven cleaners, drain openers and grill cleaners can cause burns to the skin and eyes.
- Respiratory harm. Chlorine and ammonia can cause respiratory, skin and eye irritation and death, especially if they are mixed together.
To protect against chemical harm it is important to separate chemicals from food, equipment, utensils, linens, and single-use items. If chemicals are stored directly above or next to any of these items, they could spill onto the item and contaminate it.
In addition to separating chemicals follow these tips:
- Provide personal protective equipment: OSHA requires all employers to provide to their employees PPE. In a restaurant setting this includes gloves, aprons, eye gear and more.
- Never mix chlorine and ammonia. Mixing these chemicals will create a poisonous gas. This gas can be deadly.
- Read the labels. Chemical labels provide proper handling and mixing instructions. By reading the label of a chemical you can significantly reduce mixing and handling mishap.
- Label cleaning bottles. Cleaning or spray bottles need to have labels that state what chemical is in the bottle and the hazards of the chemical. This will prevent improper mixing and handling.
- Use eco-friendly cleaners wherever possible. They are safer for your guests, employees and the environment.
- Use automated chemical dispensers. Automatic dispensers ensure employee safety and appropriate chemical concentration.
- Use lower shelves to store chemicals. Store liquid chemicals on lower shelves to avoid the risk of spills.
- Latex gloves are often worn to protect the skin from hazardous chemicals. However, some workers are allergic to latex, so non-latex gloves are recommended to prevent allergic reactions.
As an employer OSHA requires you to have MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheets in place describing the dangers of the chemicals, contact info for the manufacturer, ingredients, chemical characteristics and more.
If a chemical is transferred to a new container this label must also be transferred with the chemical.
This labeling system makes up the foundation of OSHA’s required hazardous communication program. Other requirements of the program state an employer must:
- List of the hazardous chemicals located in each work area;
- Describe how employees will be informed about the hazards in using chemicals
- Provide emergency procedures for spills, leaks or other accidents.
- Display appropriate hazard warnings. The hazard warning can be any message, words, pictures or symbols that convey the hazards of the chemical(s) on the container. The label must be legible, in English (and in other languages as needed), and prominently displayed; and
- Provide training on the handling, hazards, proper protective equipment usage and more.