Workers burned in separate kitchen clean-ups

By Jeff Salton on January 24th, 2017
  1. Fire, Emergency & Incidents
  2. First aid in the workplace

Close up of a man holding a mop bucket

While you might ask your workers to wear gloves to protect their hands while cleaning up a kitchen spill, do you consider what type of shoes they are wearing? Obviously, non-slip, but what about their ability to withstand caustic chemical spills?

Two NSW workers were injured in separate incidents after suffering severe chemical burns to their feet while they were cleaning up spills in commercial kitchens. Both workers admitted they were unaware they were cleaning up a caustic liquid and were wearing casual soft-soled shoes.

The chemical was absorbed into their footwear and socks and it was not until the workers removed their shoes were they aware of their burn injuries, which were quite extensive.

Severe burns can be relatively painless due to the damage they cause to the sensory nerves in the skin. This could explain why the workers were not aware of their injuries earlier.

SafeWork NSW, which investigated both incidents, said highly caustic chemicals are found in automatic dishwashing machine detergents, oven and grill top cleaners, as well as some grease cleaners.

Reminder for business-owners

The agency reminded operators of restaurants and cafes about the hazards associated with working with chemicals and that they have a duty to inform workers of hazards and ensure they are protected from harm.

SafeWork NSW said there were a number of contributing factors to the incidents, including:

  • a failure by the businesses to conduct a basic risk assessment to identify hazards associated with chemicals used in kitchens;
  • unsuitable footwear or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) being worn by workers for the type of work environment;
  • inadequate information and training for workers about chemical hazards and how to manage spillage incidents;
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) were not sourced or supplied to workers to keep them informed about hazards and the relevant precautions;
  • poor or non-existent spill containment for caustic chemicals;
  • absence of spill management and reporting procedures;
  • poorly maintained hazardous chemical register; and
  • alack of injury reporting procedures.

The agency recommends that all restaurants and hospitality businesses should start by developing a hazardous chemical register and then conducting a risk assessment of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace.

If possible, businesses should eliminate these hazardous chemicals or substitute for less hazardous chemicals, says SafeWork NSW.N

Jext, workers should be provided with PPE, instruction, training and supervision on the safe use, storage and handling of hazardous chemicals. Updated SDS’s should also be provided to all workers.

Employers and workers should read and follow all instructions on chemical labels and apply appropriate control measures, such as dispensary devices and spill trays, are in place for hazardous chemicals at work.

Finally, businesses should prepare and implement spill, injury and incident reporting and notification procedures.

Need help meeting these requirements?

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