In the midst of the frosting and sprinkles, pastry chefs face hidden workplace dangers. There are appliances that scorch, utensils that prick, hefty objects to lift, hard floors to endure, flour to inhale and a lot of sugar to ingest. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the risks, allowing pastry chefs to enjoy their jobs safely and healthfully.
Burns and Cuts
Burns from ovens are among the top hazards of pastry chefs. Knives pose a threat, too, such as when a large cake needs to be sliced. There are also pastry cutters, pastry wheels, zesters and other sharp tools of the trade. To minimize burns and cuts, use heavy-duty oven mitts, stay alert whenever using sharp objects and keep tools properly stored.
Pastry chefs spend a lot of time bending over bowls and baking sheets, standing on hard surfaces and lifting heavy objects, such as 50-pound bags of flour. To minimize the risk for back injury, stand up tall and stretch at least once per hour, use an anti-fatigue mat beneath your feet, wear good shoes and support inserts and bend from the knees when lifting objects. After hours, get a massage, attend physical therapy or climb into a hot tub whenever you can.
Slips and Falls
Restaurant and bakery kitchens can get messy, which can lead to dangerous walking conditions. Slips and falls result in injuries and time away from work. To minimize the risk, clean up spills as soon as you see them; keep your work area neat and orderly and encourage others to do the same; and wear shoes with nonslip soles.
Flour Dust Inhalation
Constant exposure to flour grains is bad for the lungs and can result in baker's asthma, which causes wheezing, chest tightness, hoarseness, coughing and shortness of breath. Baker's asthma often takes years to develop, so it is important to recognize the early signs and see a doctor if you experience the ailment's symptoms. Preventive measures include wearing protective masks and working in well-ventilated areas.
Obesity and Diabetes
Working around sugary, carb-heavy food can take its toll on the waistline and blood sugar levels. "Kitchen pros at all levels struggle with obesity and its dangerous aftertaste in the high-pressure, high-calorie world of food," wrote Leanne Italie in the Huffington Post. To prevent obesity and blood sugar problems, eat a healthy meal before you go to work; limit your tastes to small bites; and exercise regularly.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Chefs and Head Cooks
- Total Food Service: Physical Therapy for Metro New York’s Chef’s Aches & Pains
- U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Youth Worker Safety in Restaurants
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Exposure to Flour Dust and Sensitization Among Bakery Employees
- IAPA: Baker’s Asthma
- Huffington Post: Food: 'Fat Chef,' New Food Network Show, Tackles Weighty Issues
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images