The catering industry is wrought with health and safety risks, both for customers exposed to the risk of illness, and kitchen workers to injury. The Washington Post reports that the CDC have tracked an increase in kitchen injuries, both private and commercial, owing to the greater number of orders being placed for takeout. There’s another risk at play, however, and that concerns the general upkeep of the kitchen environment; threats to health and safety can come in from unusual sources.
While there’s no need to throw all appliances out, there needs to be a focus from kitchen staff and owners on how their appliances are working. As The New York Times outlines, older appliances spew out toxic gases such as carbon monoxide in greater quantities than newer models. You are unlikely to get immediately sick except in the most cramped of kitchens, but over time these can raise the risk of respiratory illness. Furthermore, older appliances, when improperly disposed of, contribute chemicals to the general ecosystem that often find their way back into the food chain. Look to have technicians check out your equipment and, if need be, replace it with up-to-date stuff – just make sure your old appliances are disposed of responsibly, and consider the carbon cost of a new device.
Much of America’s building stock is outdated, and for restaurants, they’ll often find their kitchen facilities crammed into such a building. This is a problem because of the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). As one journal published on Nature.com outlines, select VOCs can lead to a range of illnesses not limited to cancers and cognitive decline. There are ways to tackle this; new smart paint can help to ‘lock in’ degradation in walls, and stop it impacting the body. In the kitchen environment, which is full of moisture and heat, these effects can be magnified – arguably, more needs to be done to ensure that cooking environments are kept to the absolute maximum standard in order to prevent illness and keep staff working there happy nad healthy.
Stress and wellbeing
Catering staff will be well aware of the burnout associated with the profession. In fact, it’s often – wrongly – considered part of the process of becoming an experienced kitchen crew member. This is wrong, and workers should assert their dignity within catering workplaces. However, also consider the tools of the job – outdated and frustrating tools are likely to create more issues and more stress within the kitchen environment. That can mean sharpened and effective knife sets, but also more simple tools, like the tubs and organizational tools you need to prep and cook every single day.
In many ways, then, avoiding the more esoteric areas of health and safety in the kitchen is a case of staying up-to-date. New appliances, new decoration and new tools can help to keep some of the less obvious risks at bay.