Key Safety Elements That Should be Included in your Employee Handbook

Safety elements are the most important component of your employee handbook. This is not only important for the safety of your employees and clientele but also for your bottom line in the form of limiting liability. Ask any lawyer and they will tell you that training and getting things in writing (among other things) is imperative to covering yourself against lawsuits. 

6 Things to Include in Your Employee Handbook

1. Elements from the ServSafe Certification 

  • The Importance of Food Safety
  • Good Personal Hygiene
  • Time and Temperature Control
  • Preventing Cross-Contamination
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing
  • Safe Food Preparation
  • Receiving and Storing Food
  • Methods of Thawing, Cooking, Cooling and Reheating Food
  • HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) Food Safety Regulations

Read, ‘5 Food Safety Tips for Your Restaurant.’

2. Procedures for Operating Restaurant Equipment (if applicable)

  • Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry that could become caught in machinery. For long hair use a hair net to keep out hair that could become caught in machinery.
  • Use equipment properly. All pieces of equipment should be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Avoid electrical hazards. Keep electrical appliances away from wet areas and check their cords for damage regularly. If the cord is damaged, stop using the appliance immediately until the cord is replaced.
  • Equipment should be cleaned thoroughly after every use in accordance with manufacturer instructions as well as all surfaces and workstations.

When operating mincers, choppers, dicers, slicers:

  • Always use push sticks or tamps to feed or remove food from these types of machines.
  • Do not use your hands to feed smaller pieces of meat through slicers.
  • Make sure you are using any machine guarding that is provided to prevent access to cutter blades. Do not bypass safety guards.
  • Do not open up or put your hands into an operating machine to stir contents or guide food.
  • Turn off and unplug the machine before disassembling and cleaning.

When operating food processors, mixers:

  • Do not attempt to remove items (for example, a spoon that falls into the mixture) from dough while the machine is mixing.
  • Do not open up the lids of processors to stir contents while food is processing.
  • Make sure the processor is off before opening the lid or adding items.
  • Turn off and unplug machinery before cleaning or removing a blockage.
  • Use any machine guards provided.
  • Do not wear loose clothing or jewelry that could become caught in machinery.

Remember: Child labor laws do not permit workers younger than 18 to work with or repair, adjust, or clean power-driven machinery like meat slicers and bakery mixers.

3. Fire Safety Standard Operating Procedures

Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Extinguish hot oil/grease fires by using a class K fire extinguisher.
  • Never carry or move oil containers when oil is hot or on fire.
  • Never throw water on a grease fire; this will make the fire worse.
  • Empty grease traps frequently; do not allow them to overfill.
  • Understand the fire safety procedures in your workplace, including how to call for help, and follow them in a fire or other emergency.
  • Make sure that if you are working in a commercial kitchen that you know where to find and how to manually activate the cooking appliance fire suppression system.
  • Keep grilling surfaces clean and free from grease accumulations that might ignite and cause a fire.
  • Avoid cooking areas unless your work requires you to be there.
  • Do not use frayed cords or defective equipment.
  • Do not store flammable items near heat-producing equipment or open flames.
  • Know fire alarm locations.
  • Always sound an alarm, summon the fire department and activate the fixed fire suppression system first.
  • The fixed fire suppression system (manual pull station) is located on the wall (usually near an exit). When activating the system, simply follow the instructions noted on the pull station.
  • Know that if you catch fire, STOP, DROP and ROLL.

View our Fire Protection Resource Library

4. Substance Abuse Guidelines

As an employer, it’s up to you to determine a drug and alcohol use policy that protects your guests, other employees, and that protects you against liability.

For example, ‘The Company’ explicitly prohibits:

  • The use, possession, solicitation for, or sale of narcotics or other illegal drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication without a prescription on Company or customer premises or while performing an assignment.
  • Being impaired or under the influence of legal or illegal drugs or alcohol away from the Company or customer premises, if such impairment or influence adversely affects the employee’s work performance, the safety of the employee or of others, or puts at risk the Company’s reputation.
  • Possession, use, solicitation for, or sale of legal or illegal drugs or alcohol away from the Company or customer premises, if such activity or involvement adversely affects the employee’s work performance, the safety of the employee or of others, or puts at risk the Company’s reputation.
  • The presence of any detectable amount of prohibited substances in the employee’s system while at work, while on the premises of the Company or its customers, or while on company business. “Prohibited substances” include illegal drugs, alcohol, or prescription drugs not taken in accordance with a prescription given to the employee.

Read, ‘Employee Drug Testing & The Impact on Workers Comp Benefits.’

5. Health and Safety Policies

Employees are required to tell managers when they are sick. Managers and workers should not work when sick. Employees should not be at  work if they are experiencing these symptoms: 

  • Fever 
  • General weakness
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Tingling in throat
  • Coughing up worms
  • Reddening of the face and neck
  • Reversal of hot and cold sensation
  • Tingling in fingers, lips or toes
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Dizziness

Employees with these symptoms require written clearance from the employee’s doctor or another health provider before they are allowed to get back to work and should be sent home immediately if they are experiencing these symptoms while at work. 

Read, ‘5 Steps to Building a Safety Culture in the Workplace.’

Helping customers or other staff during a medical emergency

Disaster can strike at any moment. That includes medical emergencies within a restaurant, something more quick-service operators are preparing their employees to deal with so customers can be protected when unexpected medical issues arise.

Types of medical emergencies could include:

  • Cardiac arrest/heart attack
  • Choking
  • Continuous bleeding
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Slips and trips
  • Falling from height
  • Burns
  • Cuts
  • Allergic reactions

If a serious medical emergency exists (serious injury or illness), the following procedures should be used:

  • Assess the patient’s situation, then call 911 
  • Do not move the victim unless he/she is in a life threatening environment 
  • Notify the manager on duty
  • Render emergency first aid, if trained. If not trained, find someone who is.
  • Remain with the patient until first responders arrive
  • Write an accident report 

6. How the Organization Handles Emergency Situations

Natural disasters 

  • Have a checklist. Depending on the type of natural disaster, you could have a few days or only a few hours to prepare. A checklist will help you quickly prepare for the incoming disaster. Some great resources that can help you create a checklist are,, and

Security risk (violence in the restaurant)

  • Create and implement a violence prevention program, specific to your establishment. The plan should indicate how employees should notify local law enforcement agencies in case of an emergency.
  • Train employees to follow the safety plan when they are dealing with unsatisfied customers.
  • Instruct employees in reporting and logging incidents of threats or violence.


  • Have a method of reporting fires and other emergencies.
  • Create an evacuation policy and procedure.
  • Develop emergency escape procedures and pre-assigned routes, such as floor plans and workplace maps.

For more safety solutions, browse through our risk management library or contact a local Society agent for specific questions about business insurance.

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