Inside a commercial kitchen, you might describe the atmosphere as hectic.

Your workers operate in a fast-paced environment, under pressure to prepare food in a safe and timely manner. This fast-paced environment can also be dangerous, especially for your workers who handle knives.

According to Cal/OSHA’s Guide to Restaurant Safety, the potential for injuries is much greater when those using knives are not properly trained.

What your kitchen workers need to know

  • When cutting any food item, make sure the cutting board is stationary.
  • Dull knives are dangerous. It takes more effort to make the cuts and that added force poses greater risk of injury. Keep knives sharpened and let coworkers know when the knives are newly sharpened.
  • Never hand a knife to anyone. Instead, place it on a clean surface and let the other person pick it up.
  • Never try to catch a falling knife. Instead, let it fall to the floor and move out of its way.

Make sure your workers know where the first aid kit is and how to react if they or a coworker suffers a knife cut. Anything that comes in contact with blood must be cleaned and disinfected. Food items must be discarded.

What your employees need to do

Start by choosing a knife that is the correct size and type for the cutting job. The knife you use to slice an onion is not necessarily the same one you would use for slicing a tomato or carving a turkey.

Other steps workers should take include:

  • Cut away from the body and keep your fingers away from the cutting line.
  • Utilize a “knuckle grip” when possible, minimizing the chance of cutting your fingers.
  • Avoid cutting when talking with other workers or while distracted.
  • Carry knives with the edge angled away from your body.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as steel mesh, or Kevlar® gloves.
  • Clean the knife immediately after use.
  • Store knives in a designated area (wall racks, or storage blocks) when not in use.

What to cover at your safety meeting

Meet with your staff in the kitchen environment and engage them in a discussion about the challenges they face. Start by addressing the size of the workplace and how employees can work together, even in cramped situations, to ensure a safe and productive workplace.

Other things to cover include:

  • Demonstrating how to clean and sharpen knives.
  • Showing your workers how to position themselves so they are cutting away from their body.
  • Demonstrating how to properly carry knives and how that helps reduce injury risk.
  • Showing the PPE you want them to use and demonstrating how it works.
  • Reviewing your Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) and outlining the steps workers should take in the event someone suffers a knife cut.

Knives and cutting equipment are essential parts of the commercial food industry. They must be kept sharp and in good working condition in order for your employees to efficiently do their job. Taking the proper precautions and avoiding distractions help minimize the risk of injury. By taking the time to review these precautions, you show your employees that their safety is a priority.

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations, or standards.