School kitchens pose a range of health and safety hazards that can affect staff and visitors – but a proactive approach to safety can protect your team and reputation. By boosting awareness of potential dangers, you can safeguard employees and improve your risk assessments, policies and due diligence. 

To help you build a positive safety culture, we’ve outlined the top five compliance issues typically identified in school kitchens. Conquering these common sector hazards will significantly raise standards, but it is essential to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to locate site-specific concerns.

1. Mixer and machinery operation 

Commercial food mixers are often found in school kitchens and can vary in size and shape. To keep your team safe, workers must be trained on the correct use of mixers and machinery. 

Due to the mixer’s moving parts, employees should never put their hands in whilst operating the machine. Ensure guards are in place when mixers are turned on and, ideally, install an interlock that stops the machine when the guard is opened.  

Your catering team should also be aware of the correct uniform to wear when in the kitchen. Jewellery should be removed and hair pulled back to prevent the risk of entanglement. This guidance should be detailed in your risk assessment and suitable instruction given to staff. 

An online compliance management system such as Safety Cloud places H&S resources within easy reach, providing 24/7 access to key compliance documents and information. 

2. Extraction equipment 

Ventilation systems help maintain comfortable working conditions in your school kitchen by removing cooking fumes and encouraging air movement. They also provide air flow to fired appliances to prevent carbon monoxide accumulation. 

We recommend weekly cleaning of extraction hoods and filters to avoid the build-up of fat residues that can block air inlets and increase fire risks. In addition, ducting and fans should be serviced and cleaned by a specialist on a 6 to 12-month basis, depending on their usage. 

3. Deep fat fryers

Deep fat fryers present several hazards in school kitchens, including fire, fumes from boiling cleaning chemicals, and burns and eye injuries from hot oil splashes and spills, which must be considered in your risk assessments. eep fat fryers should be well maintained, and staff should be fully trained on their use and furnished with suitable PPE. 

When operating a fryer, employees should ensure the oil levels are correct and the temperature is set according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Baskets should always be gently lowered into the oil to avoid splashes or spitting. It is also important that any cooked food is drained over the oil or that a drip tray is used to prevent spillages on the floor. If spills do occur, they must be immediately cleaned and wiped away, using wet floor signs to visually indicate a potential hazard.

When fat fryers are not in use but are still required, such as towards the end of break or lunch times, the oil temperature should be turned down but still monitored by a staff member. Finally, fryers should only be drained and cleaned when the oil is cool, ideally as the first task in the morning. 

4. Manual handling

It is critical to consider the jobs performed in your school’s kitchen and the people who work there. If it is not reasonably practicable to avoid manual handling tasks, then a suitable and sufficient risk assessment must be undertaken to evaluate hazards and pinpoint necessary measures to control them.

Consider tasks such as lifting boxes and crates of food, carrying stacks of plates, loading and unloading food and drink deliveries, pushing and pulling trolleys and reaching for stock on shelving or walk-in fridges. For more information on manual handling risk assessments, please contact Southalls. 

5. Slips and trips

It is common to see slip and trip hazards in school kitchens. It is vital to keep general floor contamination such as spillages of water, sauces and oil to a minimum. In the event of a spill, liquids should be promptly cleaned using the correct detergent, at the concentration specified by the manufacturer. Employees should also wear suitable footwear in the kitchen, and details should be included within your risk assessments and food safety policy.

Prepare for a safe September with free 1:2:1 guidance

Get set for a safe return for students with a free telephone consultation with a Southalls H&S specialist. Ask specific safety questions, discuss your compliance concerns and get free, tailored advice from an education sector expert before the new academic year begins. Book some time in the diary here or call us on 0345 257 4015 to arrange your free phone session.