Canadian Pizza Magazine

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pizza on fire: Burn free and fingers intact


November 3, 2009
By Tom Stankiewicz

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I think it is reasonable to assume that all employees expect their work environment to be safe. Getting injured or being unsafe shouldn’t be on their minds at all when they show up for work. It’s such an obvious expectation nowadays that no one even questions it. I don’t remember any of my employees ever asking me if their new workplace will be safe. It is simply an unspoken rule that it must be safe and it’s the owner’s responsibility to ensure it.

I think it is reasonable to assume that all employees expect their work environment to be safe. Getting injured or being unsafe shouldn’t be on their minds at all when they show up for work. It’s such an obvious expectation nowadays that no one even questions it. I don’t remember any of my employees ever asking me if their new workplace will be safe. It is simply an unspoken rule that it must be safe and it’s the owner’s responsibility to ensure it.

Some workplaces are safer than others by nature. It simply means stricter rules for those that require it. All types of businesses face different levels of safety requirements. Pizza businesses are unique when it comes to this topic. Owners and managers have their own set of key safety tips that must be reviewed with all employees to prevent unnecessary injuries.

Knives are one of the most basic kitchen tools used in all pizza stores. At first you might think that everyone knows how to use this simple kitchen item without hurting themselves. However, over the years I have seen many employees who had to be trained how to properly use a knife. A kitchen knife needs to be held a certain way in order to make it as efficient as possible. Time is money in the food business, so you can’t allow your employees to cut one onion for half an hour. It is important to train and show them that it can be done safely in just a few minutes. Knives can become very dangerous if used in an unsafe manner by someone who doesn’t have that much experience with them. Take the time to show all your employees the safe and proper way of using this essential tool to prevent unnecessary cuts or more serious accidents.

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Deep fryers are another common kitchen appliance in pizza stores. The best way to start safety training is to require all employees to read the manual provided by the manufacturer. It may seem a bit odd but it actually contains the most important information and advice for operating it safely. In addition, give your employees basic tips to avoid injuries. For example, remind them not to go near the deep fryer with a cold liquid when it is in use. That’s a recipe for disaster. Show them how to place food in it without burning themselves. I have seen many occasions where employees were very close to just throwing a bag of chicken wings into the hot oil all at once. Due to inexperience they didn’t realize that it would have splashed back at them in seconds and caused serious burns.

Pizza ovens can definitely be safety hazard in the pizzeria. They are the cause of most injuries as they are used nonstop from open to close. My number one rule is to never let anyone near a pizza oven if they have never used one before. Insist that employees wear special heat resistant mittens to avoid burns on their hands. Provide instructions on how to properly place and remove pizzas from the ovens.

One final kitchen appliance that is worth mentioning is the meat cutter. I have heard of unfortunate cases where people have cut off their fingers using meat cutters improperly. Meat cutters are a popular choice for many businesses because they are inexpensive and relatively easy to operate. Only trained individuals should use them because a dangerous combination of the sharp blade and one second of distraction can lead to serious injury.

Keep in mind that some employees will need more training then others. For example, when you hire teenagers who have never worked in a kitchen you will have to explain pretty basic safety points for them. Most of them might seem very common to you but trust me, being told something as simple as “don’t put your finger in hot bacon grease” could save a lot of pain for someone who has never worked in a kitchen.

It only takes a bit of your time to ensure all employees are aware of what it means to maintain a safe work environment. If you train all your employees with safety in mind, then it will become like a second nature for them. If you have a training package for all new employees, then make sure all safety tips are included in it. Otherwise, you can post safety reminders around the store and this way everyone has easy access to this information. You can also include refresher training in your staff meetings. It is a perfect opportunity to clarify or discuss unsafe situations that you have noticed prior to the meeting. To be on a safe side, even if you think that your new employee should know basic safety tips always go over them with everyone you hire. It never hurts to refresh this information and this way you will know that all of your employees are up-to-date.


Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for over 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London since 2000.


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