The equipment you choose to outfit your foodservice establishment with is typically tailored to your customers’ demands and needs. Many times, owners overlook the needs of their own workers and the role that their equipment plays in it! With many areas of serious risk in the kitchen, choosing technologies that mitigate these risks is the key to a safe environment for you and your employees.
Open flames, high-temp cooking, and grease and chemicals are all present in your kitchen. State-of-the art technology designed to reduce this risk can now be found in many of the pieces of equipment that take up residence in your kitchen. Here are just a few to consider for your establishment.
Low-Temperature Cooking. We’ve all heard that charred foods can cause cancer. What you may not know is that the fumes emitted in the process can also pose a risk to workers. “Line cooks and chefs are shown to have a greater incidence of cancer than the general population,” says Tom Johnson, a statistician, second-generation independent manufacturer’s rep, principal at Johnson Associates, and founder of Johnson Risk Services, who learned more about this while assisting with research for the CDC investigating this health concern. “We know women in China have a greater incidence of cancer than the men, even though men smoke more and the reason, we found, is because the women do all the cooking. People who live downwind from certain foodservice operations that exhaust fumes from high-temperature cooking of animal proteins also face these risks.” Cooking for longer periods at lower temperatures can help mitigate charring. “Even if you cook a pizza in a 500 degree F oven as long as the surface area of the pizza itself doesn’t go above 212 degrees F when it would release gasses, it’s considered safer,” Johnson says. “Once the water evaporates, the crust will begin to release its sugar and starches and become nicely caramelized, but if you continue to apply heat, eventually you’re going to combust those solids and that’s when toxins are produced.”
Cooking Without Flames. It goes without saying that anything with an open flame poses a huge risk to those who work nearby. Combustion fumes and carbon monoxide can be detrimental to workers over time. Aside from that, cooking without open flames reduces and/or removes the need for vents and certain exhaust systems. Choose Sous Vide, combi ovens, or induction cooking instead, as all three can reach desired temperatures while reducing risks associated with open flames.
Chemical Exposures. Many dishwashers utilize chemicals to remove any residue from glassware. Instead, choosing high-temp washers and booster heaters to achieve results can help to reduce the use of chemicals in the kitchen. “The excessive use of chemicals today have been found to be responsible for a lot of adverse health effects, and that includes pesticides, sanitizers and other ‘economic poisons’ as they’re known,” Johnson says.
Safety Switches. Slicers, mixers, gas hookups, and many other gadgets in the kitchen are now equipped with safety switches and quick-release valves in case of an accident. Better quality models typically come equipped with better safety technologies as well!
Remember that a lax safety claim to OSHA can be costly down the road. Take the time to post signage to ensure that you’re doing all you can to create a safe work environment. Reduce the risks to your workers as well as your customers to ensure you’re being a responsible employer and restaurant owner.