Working Safely with Commercial Kitchen Food Processors
Food processors are common equipment found in commercial kitchens and restaurants in every community in America. We use them for everything from mixing cake batter to grinding beef to grating and slicing cheese and root vegetables. However, we often take for granted just how dangerous this type of equipment can be if not used safely. A quick look at the OSHA website reveals way too many serious injuries like this one: At 1:22 p.m. on September 25, 2018, an employee was cleaning area around a meat grinder and reached into the machine while it was still operating. The employee partially amputated three fingers on his left hand when they were caught by a rotating part. The employee was hospitalized. Amputation injuries like these must be reported to OSHA and often result in citations. But there are also thousands of minor injuries occurring each year. This claim description just came across my desk: Employee was washing the bagel slicer in the dish washing area. The slicer lacerated his right ring and pinky finger.
Food processors come in different shapes and sizes, both in manual and powered operating units. Some of these appliances, such as meat grinders, specialize in processing only one type of food. Whereas others offer multi-function capabilities with inter-changeable attachments. While the functionality of these machines may be great for production, they can often wreak havoc on our workers when operating and cleaning them. It’s important to take a minute to periodically review operating instructions and safety procedures with your staff prior to use.
During your next safety meeting, review these important safety tips with your kitchen staff:
- Make sure all guards are in place before using any food processors. If your equipment is missing guards, locate and attach before use. Even older equipment can be retrofitted with guards to prevent contact with moving parts. See owner’s manual for detailed instructions.
- NEVER put your hands near ANY machine openings including feed hoppers, feed tubes, mixing zones, or feed exporter.
- Drop food into the processor’s feed hopper &/or feed tube without placing your hands into the compartment. Use product pushers, such as push plates or feeder tube pushers to feed the food product towards the blade at the “point of operation”. The pusher device keeps the hands away from moving parts. This must be strictly enforced!
- DO NOT overfill the feeder. This may cause the processor to malfunction. Feeder plate/tub should always be accurately positioned before use.
- Always refer to manufacturer’s manual for operating, cleaning, and maintenance instructions. If necessary, post a “How To Instruction Guide” at each machine to remind workers of expected practices.
- Always turn off the processor and unplug the electrical cord from the power source before changing any cutting blades or cleaning. “It’s not good enough” to just turn the machine off. Stored energy may be present in the unit unless the power source is disconnected.
- When dismantling and washing the cutting blades, always wear cut resistant gloves- Grade A4 or higher.
- Never sharpen cutting blades manually. Keep a spare blade available and send the dull blade to your manufacturer or blade sharpening service to repair or replace.
The best way to reinforce continued safe work practices is to practice them regularly. Posting instruction guides, reviewing procedures during safety meetings, and observing return demonstrations of equipment usage by employees are great ways to reduce injury risks and instill safe working behaviors. Make it a part of your daily routine!
For more information, take a look at our previous posts related to this topic: