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Here are a few ideas about how to enhance the safety of some of the more common areas found in commercial kitchens.
Many of us go to work each day and perform our tasks without paying attention to inherent risks in our work environment. Certainly, the hospitality industry is much more attuned to employee safety, due to the myriad of general safety hazards encountered on a daily basis.
Human nature however, allows us to take our work places for granted and sometimes give us the opportunity to ignore or not see, important safety hazards that may cause serious harm to an individual or building environment. Perhaps obvious when viewed on a written list, they may not be so obvious when performing daily work tasks.
Over the course of the next few blog posts, I will explore ways to enhance the safety related to various parts of a commercial kitchen. I will start with fryers and exoand the conversation to such areas as exhaust hoods and flooring.
Hopefully, you will find this series advantageous and it will prompt you to take a personal inventory of your kitchen or dining areas.
Fryers and Oil
Where are your fryers placed in the kitchen? If they are at the end of a cooking line or adjacent to an aisle, the risk is high that someone could potentially slip and accidentally reach for a solid surface to steady themself. Hot oil splattering or spilling from a fryer can also affect kitchen staff passing by. Fryers located adjacent to open burners are at high risk for explosive combustion from the adjacent open burner flame. Hot oil from the fryer could cause serious burns putting the staff member and business in serious time off work and financial liability.
The first suggestion is to remove and or relocate the fryer to a safer spot on the cook line and/or place a wide enough spread between the aisle or open burner and fryer to help avoid safety hazards. Second, place a vertical stainless steel shield between the fryer and hazardous area to help protect your staff and building from potential injury or fire damage.
Risks associated with hot fryer oil filtration are high and often overlooked and treated as a normal daily task associated with deep fat frying. How are you filtering your oil? Is your staff well trained and is there a written procedure manual? Is filtration scheduled at specific times? How is hot oil transported and how crowded is the area around the deep fat fryer? These are some of the questions that may trigger some thoughts on your operation and procedures used for filtering hot oil.
In my mind, the only way to handle hot oil, is to not handle it at all. This means invest in a fully integrated oil filtration system which prevents your staff from handling hot oil. In my opinion, the best method is to purchase a frying system that has the oil filter fully integrated within the internal mechanism of the fryer, which translates into a fully enclosed and automated plumbing system. The kitchen staff member, fully trained with the operation of this unit, simply pushes a few buttons and turns color coded valves, and does not have to handle hot oil. Oil can be transported in an enclosed stainless steel container, or pumped to a remote storage vessel to be recycled at a later date.
The second best method employs purchasing a portable oil filtration unit designed to attach to the fryer unit with minimal exposure to hot oil spills. Although manual oil filtering is still considered standard industry practice, high risks associated with handling hot oil beg food service managers to invest in safer filtration methods. My opinion - if an operation can't afford to invest in safe methods of filtering oil, it should not be in the fried foods business. Think of it this way – risk of injury is high and causes pain and suffering with injured staff and management, and the return on investment scenario for purchasing quality frying and oil filtration systems, justifies the investment. Contemporary oil filtration and frying systems technology is a win-win for everyone.