Are professional kitchens healthy and safe?
To the general public they certainly look as if they are, with their professional gleam and hi-tech appliances.
But it’s not a given for professional chefs and cooks: cooking in a professional kitchen is complex, and it can often cause a great deal of negative stress. A kitchen may not be a factory furnace or a skyscraper building site, but it is still full of potentially harmful devices.
How do these factors impact the design of kitchen appliances, and what’s the best way to address them?
Risk factors in professional kitchens
We discovered some interesting things in our “Taste the stress” experiment: we conducted a survey of professional chefs and cooks in the US, and we found that 44% of them took sick leave due to stress symptoms. Our experiment clearly showed that stress is not essential to make great-tasting food, but at the same time it found that food service professionals are exposed to a great deal of stress. Moreover, 55% of the same US professional chefs and cooks went on to use, or consider using, prescription drugs to help manage their stress levels.
The issue of potentially harmful devices in the kitchen is no less important. Here is a list, just to name a few of them:
- naked flames
- boiling liquids
- sharp edges
- slippery floors
- equipment and machinery with automated moving parts
All of these are considered hazards in any working environment, and their potential for harm is even higher in the confined, hectic space of a professional kitchen.
Then, of course, there is the additional risk of back pain and knee pain caused by working on your feet for long hours.
One way of addressing overall health and safety issues in professional kitchens
To prevent injuries or work-related problems, kitchen owners and managers must have appropriate safety programs in place and make sure they are followed, but kitchen appliance manufacturers can also do their part.
By carefully studying the ergonomics of their appliances, manufacturers can do two things:
- foster streamlined processes to channel people-to-people interaction into more efficient, less stressful routines
- improve people-to-machine interaction by designing and building human-centered appliances: the risk of harmful interaction between operator and appliance is reduced with more functional and user-friendly operating interfaces and automated routines
Appliance manufacturers can do this in a number of different ways, and the industry-wide ergonomic studies conducted in the last year play an important part in this. Here at EPR, we have revamped our whole product development process, putting the experience that users will have with the appliance at the center of our product design. We have shifted from industrial design to user experience design, which has taken us a step further in understanding and creating professional kitchen ergonomics.
Following our vision of “making life easier and more profitable” for our clients, we see human-centered appliances as a way to boost efficiency, and at the same time prevent risks that have a negative impact on work-life balance – for them and for their employees.