Key safety ingredients for new restaurant workers

A high turnover rate means today’s kitchens are seeing more new workers. One executive chef says training and coaching are key ingredients for their safety. 

Photo of chef and staff in kitchen of restaurant

Photo credit: iStock.com/JackF

Here in B.C. — and across Canada — the restaurant industry is dealing with an ongoing labour shortage. It’s a challenge to fill kitchen positions and there’s a lot of turnover. And, of course, all these new workers need safety training before they start.

Isabel Chung, executive chef at Fairmont Chateau Whistler (FCW), says her industry is seeing a new generation of workers with less experience.

“When it comes to training, we’re shifting our mindset from assuming that everyone knows everything to assuming that everyone knows nothing with regard to kitchen safety,” she says. “There’s a lot of teaching that needs to occur. It’s especially important in the kitchen because there are lots of mechanized, sharp, and hot objects.”

New workers receive thorough safety training

More than 60 percent of injury claims in B.C.’s food service industry involve kitchen staff. They work with tools and equipment that can put them at risk of injury if used improperly.

FCW has a strict policy to ensure that new workers are “100 percent familiar” with any kitchen tools they use, Isabel says.

“We get a lot of new students who may have operated a slicer at one point under the supervision of an instructor but haven’t done it on a regular basis.”

At FCW, a kitchen safety trainer or coach teaches new workers to use equipment like meat slicers, grinders, and band saws. Within their first two days, colleagues-in-training meet with the department’s health and safety representative to make sure they’ve covered everything on their safety training checklist. All this training is especially important since working in a hotel kitchen is different than other kitchens.

Photo of Isabel Chung snipping yellow flowers from green kale

Isabel Chung, Executive Chef of the Fairmont Chateau
Whistler. Photo credit: © kevinclarkstudios

Says Isabel: “We have people who have never worked in a hotel before and may not realize that we’re a larger operation with more equipment than your average restaurant.”

Isabel is one of the chefs featured in WorkSafeBC’s Kitchen Safety video series. (Read more about the series in my post B.C. chefs dish out kitchen safety in new video series.)

For more kitchen safety information, see Injury prevention: pub and restaurant safety from go2HR. Also visit WorkSafeBC’s Food & beverage services page.

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