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Meet the Regulations With an OSHA Kitchen Safety Checklist

OSHA commercial kitchen safety regulations changed dramatically in late 2021, with many new guidelines. COVID-19 safety precautions for staff and customers are prioritized. Learn more about the new regulations and how to easily comply with them with a digital checklist.

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What Do the New OSHA Regulations Mean for the Food Service Industry?

OSHA commercial kitchen safety is taking a higher priority nowadays because reports have established that food service can be a high-hazard industry for the transmission of Covid-19. In July of 2021, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), announced that it would be taking a renewed interest in its supervision of restaurants and other commercial kitchen and food service establishments.

What Does OSHA Do for Kitchen Safety?

OSHA will be conducting detailed inspections of both full-service and limited-service restaurants. They’re creating a target list of establishments suspected of COVID-19 safety violations. Inspectors can show up unannounced to inspect your food service facility for COVID-19 safety compliance, as well as other possible violations.

OSHA is especially concerned that employees be protected from retaliation when they raise concerns about workplace safety. Employees at restaurants and other commercial kitchens are at increased risk when it comes to COVID-19, since they are generally in close contact with customers and other employees.

In addition to COVID-19 safety, OSHA is also prioritizing protecting kitchen employees from heat stress and injury. In September of 2021, new OSHA kitchen safety standards were announced in line with the new enforcement initiative to protect commercial kitchen staff from heat-related illness and death. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heat kills an average of 38 employees per year in the US… but that number may be much higher. Since the cause of death is usually a heart attack, it can be difficult to determine if heat is the primary trigger.

Take the case of a 37-year old prep cook in Michigan who died due to complications of heat stress. On the day of his death, he worked from 8:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. He told his supervisor he wasn’t feeling well and was sent home. Once home, he went to relax in his garage, which had been converted into a den. And there he was found dead, later that afternoon.

His death could have been prevented if the restaurant had taken measures to reduce the heat hazards at their workplace.

This article covers the following topics:

1. The new OSHA kitchen safety standards regarding heat exposure

2. The new OSHA commercial kitchen safety standards regarding Covid-19

3. What other items should include the OSHA kitchen safety checklist

4. Benefits of OSHA kitchen safety with digital checklists

chef plating past with tomato sauce and ground beef

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What Are the New OSHA Kitchen Safety Standards Regarding Heat Exposure?

OSHA kitchen safety standards regarding heat exposure have changed to take into account increased risk of heat injury to employees.

Kitchens and bakeries are well-known as hot places. Ovens and cooking equipment generate a lot of heat, which often overpowers any attempt at air conditioning. Wearing masks and other PPE (personal protective equipment) to stop the spread of COVID-19 only makes things worse for kitchen staff.

Part of your new OSHA kitchen safety checklist should include measures you’ve taken in line with OSHA guidance to keep your kitchen staff cool and comfortable in extreme heat, while still safe from Covid-19. For example:

  • Let new and returning employees get used to the heat before requiring them to work long hours in hot, humid places.
  • Let employees take longer/more frequent breaks in cooled environments as necessary.
  • Make sure they stay hydrated. It’s recommended that they drink small amounts of cool water frequently – about 1 cup every 20 minutes.
  • Get better ventilation in the kitchen if you can, but make sure the air isn’t pushed over several people at once, since this can facilitate COVID-19 transmission.
  • Make a plan for heat emergencies.
  • Train employees and supervisory staff to recognize the signs of heat stress and teach them what to do about it.
  • Post signs reminding people (in different languages as necessary) to watch out for heat stress and how to combat it.
  • Think of ways employees can cool off safely. For instance, they might remove their mask and take a break alone in their air-conditioned car.

What Are the New OSHA Commercial Kitchen Safety Standards Regarding COVID-19?

The new OSHA commercial kitchen safety standards regarding COVID-19 are very serious. Your OSHA kitchen safety checklist should include measures, conforming to OSHA guidelines, to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. For example:

  • Insist that workers get vaccinated.
  • Provide masks up to OSHA standards for employees to wear when indoors and around other people.
  • Insist employees get tested 3–5 days after exposure to someone known or suspected to have Covid-19.
  • If an employee is suspected or known to have Covid-19, or has close contact with someone who does, send them home.
  • Don’t allow employees suspected to be COVID-19 transmission risks to come back until they have been tested as safe and non-contagious.
  • Have policies in place to ensure employees are not penalized for taking sick days when they need to.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of distance between people.
  • Train workers on COVID-19 safety standards (in different languages as necessary).
  • Set up an anonymous and protected plan for employees to voice their concerns.
  • Make sure they know who to call to report violations and dangerous practices, and the protection that OSHA gives them for whistleblowing.

What Other Items Should Be Included in the OSHA Kitchen Safety Checklist?

To make sure that you’re prepared for a surprise OSHA commercial kitchen safety inspection, your OSHA kitchen safety checklist should also go over the following:

  • Review your OSHA 300 Illness and Injury Log to see areas where you might improve kitchen safety.
  • If you have employees under 18, go over the OSHA rules for young restaurant workers.
  • Look over OSHA regulations regarding kitchen fire safety and dangerous equipment, such as meat grinders.
  • Talk with your employees and ask them if they have any safety concerns. It’s much better if they discuss these with you rather than make reports to OSHA.

It’s an excellent idea to have signs up around your workplace reminding employees to maintain OSHA commercial kitchen safety protocols. For instance, reminding them to wash their hands properly for at least ten seconds, demonstrating the proper way to wear a mask, what are the signs and symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, and so on.

Now is the time to go over your plans and policies regarding the following and make sure they’re updated in line with current guidance and well-documented, ready to show the OSHA inspectors:

  • COVID-19 safety policies and compliance
  • PPE policies and compliance
  • Employee-tracking of COVID-19 exposure
  • COVID-19 sanitation protocols, compliance, and sanitation logs
  • Employee training with regards new safety protocols

If you follow these guidelines, your food service establishment will be ready to face an OSHA commercial kitchen safety inspection, as well as safe from COVID-19.

woman cooking ice cream inside a kitchen

Benefits of OSHA Kitchen Safety With Digital Checklist

Paper checklists have their pitfalls: lost documents and unshared information and work instructions can have disastrous consequences for kitchen operations. Moving to a digital solution simplifies communication and information sharing. With Lumiform, a mobile app and desktop software for audits and inspections, you can provide clear and concise kitchen work instructions while monitoring their execution.

Keep track of kitchen operations by using digital checklists for different kitchen applications. From now on, perform kitchen checks only paperless, and together with your team, benefit from:

  • Start going digital right away using kitchen operations checklists from Lumiform's template library.
  • Convert existing paper-based checklists into digital templates for your team in just a few steps using the innovative form builder.
  • Assign corrective actions instantly from the app to team members, and set priority levels and due dates.
  • Generate reports automatically on the spot and share instantly within the organization.
  • Save reports and store them securely in the cloud.

Two male cooks preparing fresh oysters

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