Protective clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) is an essential safety feature in any workplace, and the food industry is no exception. The risk of accident or injury is high in any fast-paced commercial kitchen, so wearing the right PPE will make sure employees are protected from blunt impacts, electrical hazards, heat, chemicals and much more.
There is a huge choice of protective clothing for any catering environment, from coats and aprons to chef shoes and gloves, and employers are duty-bound to ensure they provide the correct industry clothing and personal protective equipment for their staff.
Chef PPE and Food Industry Clothing
Much like construction or warehouse workers, kitchen and hospitality staff need to be protected from their working environment. it doesn’t matter if you’re a chef, a waiter or a cleaner, there are many tasks in your daily routine that can cause injury at work.
Why Wear Protective Clothing in Kitchen Areas?
Kitchens are hot, busy and dangerous places to work. Hot ovens, open fires, and sharp knives all add to the risk of injury, which makes PPE for chefs invaluable. Even for the most experienced of chefs, wearing PPE when working in a kitchen helps to prevent injury by protecting you from burns, cuts and more.
Why Wear Protective Clothing in Food Industry Roles?
The main reason that food handlers should wear protective clothing is to protect both your customers and yourself while preparing and cooking food. Using disposable gloves and hair nets will help you to hygienically prepare food and prevent foreign objects from falling into it. Clean aprons, towels and more will provide further protection for your customers by reducing the risk of food poisoning or injury, while protective clothing can also help keep you safe from injury when working with food too. But what hospitality PPE do you need?
What Protective Clothing Should Be Worn In Kitchens?
Chef jackets made with a double-breasted front prevents burns by creating a barrier between your skin and hot appliances or spillages. Long sleeves also help prevent injury due to heat, which is crucial in bustling commercial kitchens.
Aprons worn over your jacket will add an extra layer of protection against hot liquids, foods and equipment, as well as keeping you looking professional. Available in a range of materials and styles, apron not only provide great protection from the hazards of working in a kitchen, but compliment the style of your uniform.
Safety shoes are designed with 200J toe protection to protect your toes from impact and non-slip soles give you stability on wet and oily floors. The Australian/New Zealand Footwear Standards state that catering shoes should be worn to reduce injuries resulting from;
- Contact with falling, rolling or cutting objects
- Friction or pressure blistering
- Contact with chemicals and heat
- Penetration through the sole or uppers
Slipbuster footwear have SRC non-slip soles that make them perfect for use in commercial kitchens. Some slipbuster shoes are called ‘safety boots’ or ‘safety shoes’. They are made from strong materials, such as leather, to offer extra ankle support and protection against falling equipment and utensils.
Oven gloves will protect your hands from hot cookware when using ovens and other cooking equipment. Their heat resistant construction makes it safe for you to remove baking trays, dishes and other cookware from ovens without burning your hands. Disposable gloves offer protection from certain foods too. Some foods, such as hot chillies, can cause irritation if handled without gloves.
What Protective Clothing Should Be Worn When Cleaning?
Commercial cleaning chemicals can be dangerous if not used correctly or if you’re not wearing the right protective equipment. Strong acids can damage skin and eyes, so wearing the right protective clothing and equipment is crucial to maintaining safety.
Safety goggles are the best way to protect your eyes from accidental splashes of cleaning fluids. They are made from strong plastics and rubbers that make them comfortable to wear whilst giving you reliable protection. Goggles offer more protection when using chemicals as they have a surround that hugs your face, leaving no gaps for liquids to get in.
Cleaning staff should also use rubber gloves to protect their skin from burns and irritation. Colour coded gloves are perfect for washing up and light duty cleaning, and can be assigned to certain areas in your business.
Waterproof aprons prevent damage to your clothing and add a layer of protection on top of your lab coat or overalls. They are available in both heavy and light duty variations for different tasks and environments; from washing dishes to bleaching floors. You can also use protective coats rather than waterproof aprons. These often come with pockets for storing cleaning equipment, such as cloths and sprays. These aren’t waterproof however, so are best suited to general cleaning duties such as dusting, polishing and vacuuming.
Article: Read our guide on colour coding your kitchen to learn how you can implement a good HACCP system.
What to Consider when Buying Hospitality PPE
When deciding what protective clothing you and your staff will need to use for each task, you should consider;
- What hazards does the task present? Knowing the hazards that come with each task will help you to plan which clothing and/or equipment you should use. For example, if you know there will be harmful chemicals, consider splashing and skin contact.
- Is it suitable for the conditions? Make sure the clothing you choose is suitable for the working conditions and environment.
- Does it offer the right level of protection? Choose the clothing and equipment that adequately protects the wearer.
- Do you and your staff need training on the items or do the items require maintenance? Ensure your staff know how to fit and wear the items properly to ensure maximum safety.
- Do you know when/if/how the items need replacing? Knowing how to clean, repair or replace worn out safety clothing is crucial to keeping your staff protected.
Before you and your staff get started using your new safety workwear, you should consider the following questions;
- Do the items fit properly? Wearing protective clothing that is too big can make tasks more difficult, so make sure each item fits correctly before use.
- How do they feel? Is it suitably comfortable? The wearer can become distracted if the clothing is not comfortable, which increases the risk of accidents.
- Does the protective clothing interfere with the task at hand? Thick gloves can make more intricate cleaning tasks more difficult; ensure all clothing is suitable for the task at hand.
- Does the protective clothing create extra hazards, such as overheating or entanglement? Long aprons can get on equipment and machinery. Ensure the protective clothing and equipment doesn’t create any further hazards for you and your staff.
How to Clean Food Industry Clothing and PPE
Whether it’s casual wear or work uniforms, cleaning any clothing is important to maintaining impeccable hygiene levels. But when it comes to protective clothing and hospitality PPE, it is exceptionally important. Ensuring your safety workwear is kept clean and well maintained will ensure it does its job for longer, which also cuts down on the cost of buying in replacements.
Wipe down any waterproof clothing with antibacterial wipes to kill germs and remove other chemicals. They can also be cleaned in washing machines to ensure a thorough and deep clean. For the best results, fabric clothing needs to be washed in high temperatures with biological detergents. These detergents will break down organic matter such as food or bodily fluids, ensuring your clothes get a professional and thorough clean.
All protective clothing must be properly washed and cleaned before and after use. You should also make sure you keep clothing from different areas or job types separate when cleaning. For example, chef PPE and clothing shouldn’t be washed with cleaning clothing. This will prevent any chance of cross contamination from different germs.