Between mixers, ovens, and knives, bakeries can be high-risk environments for workers. In fact, there are an estimated 1,700 nonfatal injuries and illnesses among U.S. retail bakery workers each year. Fortunately though, by taking steps to prevent injuries on the job, you can better safeguard your employees—and your business.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs provides general guidance for implementing a health and safety program. These programs help businesses:
- Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
- Improve compliance with laws and regulations
- Reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers’ compensation premiums
- Engage workers
- Enhance their social responsibility goals
- Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations
Why safety matters
For every dollar spent on a workers’ comp claim, $5 is spent on indirect costs, like lost productivity, hiring and retraining staff, and replacing or repairing damaged equipment. Those numbers can really add up—especially when you consider that:
- 40 percent of accidents in bakeries are due to slips on wet floors or spilling dough or other wet ingredients
- Handling heavy loads like bags of flour, carts or trays can cause back and muscle injuries
- Bakeries use dangerous machinery with moving blades, conveyor belts, and other traps, which can cause cut or crush limbs
- Hot ingredients like syrups or fruit fillings can cause burns, as can hot ovens and pans
- Exposure to flour dust can cause asthma or irritate the nose, throat, or eyes
- Handling dough or other ingredients can cause rashes or dermatitis
Workplace safety tips for bakery owners
By implementing proper safety techniques, you can help reduce the number of workers’ comp claims at your business. Be sure that all employees (even part-time help and trainees) are well trained in safety procedures.
Here are top tips to help keep your workers safe at your bakery.
- Avoid overcrowding in the kitchen, especially near hot stoves or ovens.
- Allow workers enough time to work safely.
- Provide proper storage so walkways and work areas aren’t cluttered.
- Keep electrical cords out of walkways and avoid using extension cords.
- Make sure carpets are in good condition.
- Rotate employees’ tasks, especially those that require using the same motion over and over.
- Consider using mechanical equipment to do repetitive employee tasks.
- Consider providing slip-resistant footwear to employees, since it can reduce as much as 75 percent of work-related slips and falls.
- Establish a floor-cleaning schedule.
- Design work areas to limit the need for reaching and climbing by keeping the most frequently used items on most accessible shelves.
- Introduce measures to avoid spills and leaks, such as using secure storage bins or purchasing liquids in smaller containers.
- Provide enough ladders and footstools of the right height for the job site.
- Maintain good lighting in work, delivery, and storage areas.
- Identify all sources of dust, including flour dust, and control exposure where possible at all stages of production by limiting the amount of flour stored in production areas, providing adequate ventilation, and using enclosed mixing systems.
- Avoid sweeping floors. Instead, use a vacuum cleaner or wet cleaning method.
- Provide face masks where necessary.
- Clearly mark one trash can for broken glass and sharp can lids.
- Provide hand trucks and other lifting devices, and keep them in good condition.
- Provide training in safe lifting methods.
- Provide potholders, gloves, or oven mitts for use with hot equipment.
- Devise safe systems for heating and handling hot liquids and limit carrying hot products through work areas.
- Train employees in knife skills, including which knife to use, how to use it, and proper maintenance and storage.
- Sit equipment on secure bases with adequate space around them and ensure workers can’t be accidentally bumped or distracted while using the equipment
- Ensure that large electrical appliances have machine guards.
- Keep cords, plugs, and outlets in good condition.
- Make sure fire extinguishers are up to date and located in convenient locations. Ensure employees know where they are and how to use them.
- Ensure that all automatic extinguishing systems in kitchens are inspected and that hood and ducts are professionally cleaned at least twice a year.
- Store cleaning supplies and other chemicals in their original containers away from food and heat sources.
- Make safety information available for each chemical used in the workplace and ensure employees know where to find it.
- Place electrical equipment away from water.
- Have more than one exit workers can reach in case of emergency, and post-emergency telephone numbers.
- Schedule at least two people per shift, especially at night or early mornings.
- Have working locks and alarms kept in good condition, and consider surveillance cameras and/or mirrors.
- Make sure all employee injury claims are investigated to help uncover any fraudulent claims.
Safety tips for bakery workers
Train and remind your employees to:
- Take a few moments during their shifts to stretch or take breaks, especially if they spend a lot of time carrying loads, bending, reaching, or repeating the same motions
- Objects weighing more than 50 pounds require a two-person lift
- Lift heavy items with their legs, not their backs
- Lift and lower objects with their legs, not their backs
- Move their feet when changing direction between tasks instead of twisting from the waist
- Turn pot handles away from burners and make sure they don’t hang over the edge of the range.
- Use baking soda or salt on a grease fire—not water, flour, baking powder, or other cooking powders, which can make the fire worse
- Wash hands in hot, soapy water before and after handling food. Use paper towels to dry hands, not a dish towel
- Never leave knives soaking in water
- Place a damp cloth under the cutting board to keep it from moving
- Pass a knife to another person by laying it on a counter, or pass it with the blade pointed down
- Store plastic wrap below eye level
- Only use cleaning chemicals in well-ventilated areas and wash hands after using them
- Keep their hands, face, hair, clothing, and jewelry away from the moving parts of a mixer
- Always lockout/tag out electrical equipment when cleaning or repairing it (this helps prevent just anyone from being able to turn the machine on)
- Keep floors dry near electrical equipment and outlets
- Never use chipped or cracked glasses or dishware
- Use a dustpan and broom when cleaning up broken glass
- Warn other workers when walking behind them (using warnings like “behind you,” “coming through,” or “hot plate”)
- Wear non-skid, closed-toe waterproof shoes with low heels
- Not wear oversized or baggy pants that could cause them to trip
- Store chemicals in designated storage areas below eye level
- Clean up spills immediately
- Clean floors regularly with a clean mop and the appropriate floor cleaner
- Push carts instead of pulling them
Perhaps most importantly, require that all employee injuries—no matter how small—are reported immediately.
How to prepare for unexpected accidents
Every workplace should have a plan for handling injuries. The plan should explicitly explain how workers should report injuries and how to get help promptly. It should designate which staff members are trained to provide first aid and document how to contact medical personnel if needed.
You should also:
- Explain how employees should contact medical personnel if needed
- Include the location of first-aid kits, gloves, and other protective equipment available for staff (lacerations and puncture wounds should be immediately treated and disinfected to prevent infection)
- Train designated staff on each shift to provide first aid for burns (first aid is the best way to minimize the damage caused by a burn)
- Make sure workers know how to specifically report an incident when there is exposure to blood
How to incentivize safety in your bakery
Accidents can happen anywhere, especially in foodservice businesses. Remind employees why safety training is important and provide continual reminders and retraining.
To help encourage your employees to make safety a priority at work, consider offering prizes or awards for those who follow the safety program or hit time milestones while remaining injury-free. Prizes like lottery scratch-offs, coffee gift cards, or 30 minutes of extra paid-time-off can help motivate your team.
Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.