How to Prevent Burns in the Kitchen

Restaurants are fast paced environments with many opportunities for an employee to receive a burn injury. The Burn Foundation estimates that 12,000 burns occur annually in the Food Service Industry. A third-degree burn can be produced from a temperature of 150⁰ F with one second of exposure and many items in a common kitchen are well in excess of 150⁰ F. Burns can leave a business shorthanded while an employee is healing and lead to increased workers compensation or liability costs. Care should be taken to ensure the safety of employees.

What Are the Common Causes of Burns in Kitchen Restaurants?

  • Hot liquids, oils, grease, and steam
  • Hot cooking surfaces, pans, and plates
  • Faulty electrical wires
  • Improperly-trained staff
  • Poorly-maintained equipment

How to Prevent Burns In the Kitchen

  • Kitchen Layout: If possible, design the layout of the kitchen to prevent carrying hot items long distances.
  • Communicate: Broadcast your movement when moving hot items to ensure awareness for other employees in your vicinity.
  • Splashing of Hot Liquids: Keep the area around hot liquids clear of objects that can fall and result in the splashing of hot liquids.
  • Personal Protective Equipment: Provide adequate personal protective equipment of oven mitts, gloves, slip-resistant shoes, and aprons.
  • Inspect Equipment: Handles can become loose over time and should be checked prior to using them.
  • Keep Up with Maintenance: Ensure qualified maintenance personnel perform electrical equipment, and fire suppression maintenance as required.
  • Reduce Customer Exposure: Customers may not heed warnings of hot plates or liquids. Limit serving hot plates and maintain hot drink temperatures under 175⁰ F, if possible.
  • Let Falling Objects Fall: The natural reaction is to grab falling items. This can lead to someone grabbing a hot surface barehanded resulting in severe burns.
  • Training: Worker experience can vary greatly in a restaurant. Ensuring employees are comfortable and well-trained can reduce the risk of burns occurring.
  • Handle Position: Handles should be placed in a manner to prevent accidental interaction, which could result in burns or spilling of hot oils.

Types of Burn Injuries

If a burn occurs, seek immediate medical attention to ensure adequate treatment is received.

1. First-Degree Burns
First-degree burns involve the burning of the top layer of skin and consist of the following signs:

  • Red color of the affected area
  • Painful when touched 
  • Possible swelling

2. Second-Degree Burns
Second-degree burns affects the lower layer of the skin and consist of the following signs:

  • Deep reddening of the skin
  • Blistering
  • Seeping fluids
  • Loss of skin

3. Third-Degree Burns

Second-degree burns affect the deeper tissues of the skin and consist of the following signs:

  • Loss of skin
  • Dry and leathery skin
  • Charred skin appearing white, brown or black
  • May be painless due to nerve damage

Recommended Burn Care

First Aid for First-Degree Burns

  • Apply cool wet compress or immerse in cool fresh water until pain stops
  • Cover with sterile non-adhesive bandage
  • Seek medical attention

First Aid for Second-Degree Burns

  • Immerse in fresh cool water
  • Apply cool compresses if available
  • Elevate burned areas if possible
  • Monitor for shock
  • Seek medical attention

First Aid for Third-Degree Burns

  • Cover lightly with sterile non-adhesive bandage or gauze
  • Do not apply any ointments
  • Elevate burned area when possible
  • Monitor for shock
  • Seek medical attention

Importance of Maintaining Fire Prevention Equipment

Fires can occur for many different reasons. A properly maintained and designed restaurant kitchen is the best defense in preventing burns. Regular maintenance is essential to the safety and efficiency of your restaurant kitchen. Ensure that your business’s smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers are inspected and tested often to avoid costly disasters.

Looking for more information to keep your business safe from fire risks and your employees burn-free? Browse our Fire Prevention blog series.

Additional Fire Prevention Resources


Greg joined Society Insurance in 2018 as a Risk Control Representative. Prior to that, he served fourteen years in the U.S. Air Force as a Fuels Specialist. His duties included the role of Safety Manager for his unit with oversight of petroleum and logistics operations. Greg earned his A.S. degree in Logistics from Community College of the Air Force and is currently pursuing his bachelor's degree in Safety Management at Indiana State University.

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