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Burns & scalds in kitchens


Burns and scalds are serious risks in the hospitality industry and accounts for many serious injuries.

Burns are injuries that are caused by electricity, chemicals, light, radiation, friction or heat such as fire, with each burn having a different severity. This is why burns are measured in levels.

Degrees of burns

The first level of burn is known as a first-degree burn (superficial burn). These are generally caused by mild sunburn which only affects the outer layer of skin. In this scenario, your burn site may be:

  • red
  • painful
  • dry.

Blisters generally are not present with first-degree burns.

Second-degree burns (partial thickness) are the next level, which are often caused by scalds from hot liquids (like boiling water, steam, or oil heated for cooking), flames or when you touch hot objects. The burn site will appear:

  • red
  • blistered
  • wet and shiny
  • swollen and painful.

These burns will often be at risk of infection.

Third-degree burns (full thickness) are the most serious, as your outer and inner layers of skin (that is the dermis) are destroyed. They may also damage your underlying bones, muscles and tendons. Third-degree burns are usually caused by:

  • scalding liquid
  • prolonged contact with a hot object
  • corrosive chemicals
  • contact with fire or electricity.

In this situation, the burned skin will appear:

  • stiff and white
  • black
  • yellow or brown
  • dry and leathery
  • painless because the nerve endings have been burned.

In order to prevent infection, skin grafts, surgery and intensive care may be required.

It is recommended that both second and third-degree burns be assessed by a doctor or a qualified health practitioner.

Furthermore, we should be notified of an incident if a burn or scald needs critical or intensive care.

Risk control

It is important that everyone in the industry know how to prevent burns and how to administer first aid.

Hazards that could result in a burn need to be assessed and measures put in place to protect workers from these risks. Workers need to be involved in the best ways possible to prevent burns.

Appropriate ways to minimise burns and scalding risks include:

  • ensuring floor surfaces are kept clean and proper enclosed slip resistant footwear is provided. Slippery floors increase the risk of a worker making contact with hot food, hot oil or hot objects like cooking pots
  • placing warning signs or stickers near hot equipment or surfaces
  • making sure cooking oil is cooled to a safe handling temperature before being drained from a deep fryer
  • incorporating a gravity-feed chute from the deep fryer to an external receptacle to eliminate the need to handle hot cooking oil waste
  • using long-handled baskets and automatic food-lowering devices for deep fryers
  • covering equipment which contains hot fat or fluids, when not in use
  • using a tray or trolley to serve hot liquids, plates or utensils
  • warning serving staff or customers if plates are hot 
  • making sure workers are trained in the use of espresso machines or deep frying food and following safe working practices
  • implementing routine safety checks such as checking deep fryers and grills are turned off before closing time
  • wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as heat resistant gloves and aprons
  • using a waiter’s cloth to protect arms while carrying hot plates or trays
  • taking notice of warning signs regarding hot equipment
  • training workers in preferred techniques for handling hot items such as
    • opening doors and lids of steam heated equipment away from the body 
    • keeping saucepan or pot handles pointing away from the edge of a stove and making sure the handles are not over hotplates
    • using dry cloths to pick up hot items in order to avoid scalding
    • removing all utensils from pans.
  • installing windows in the kitchen door to help prevent accidents involving workers carrying hot food or beverages. Alternatively, you should provide entrance and exit doors
  • redesigning the kitchen so work areas are away from heat sources. 

Additional information

For tips and advice on work health and safety, we offer a free workplace advisory service. An experienced WHS advisor can visit your workplace to help you to identify hazards and risks to put in place practical safety systems that will suit your specific circumstances. 

Our advisors don’t have inspector powers under the Work Health and Safety Act, so you can feel comfortable inviting them in to help.

Book a visit or call 1300 365 255 and ask to speak to an advisor.