Preventing burns in kitchen

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Hello everyone, 

My name is Kristine, I'm currently pursuing my masters in human centered design and engineering at Northwestern University. I've always been interested in cooking, food tasting, trying new recipes and watching cooking related tutorials, shows and attending cooking classes. I wanted to take my passion further through my thesis. 

I'm currently designing/developing a new product for professional chefs in restaurants that could help them prevent burns and/or provide a better, more convenient way to touch hot handles and other hot items. I've talked to several chefs and observed what's going on in couple restaurant kitchens during busy hours. The key insights I've found was that 1) many chefs get burns because they touch hot things that don't look hot and 2) chefs always hold towels to handle hot items - often times constantly holding the towel even though they need both hands to do things and looking around for a towel. 

I have couple ideas that makes it easier for chefs to hold hot pan handles and other hot items in the kitchen during busy times. 

1) Armband: This is a very simple armband similar to a tight (breathable) sleeve. You can pull it out to wrap around your hand to hold hot items and when you don't need it anymore, just slide it back up your arm. It will be made of special breathable material on the end that mostly stays on the arm and the other end that will be wrapped around your hand will be a heat and water resistant towel.

2) Simple half mitten attached to body: This is a special material mitten that can be easily slipped on your hand and when not using it, it can be attached on the body via a magnet, velcro or clip. 

3) This is a side idea but some kind of a band or some attachment to a pan handle that changes color from black to red when it reaches temperature that causes skin burns - purpose is to give visual feedback that something is hot. 

It's been really challenging for me to get in touch with professional chefs as and any feedback, comment or thoughts from you would mean so much! Please respond (if you don't mind) with your name, brief description of your cooking experience/careers so I have a general understanding of who I'm getting feedback from. 

If you live in Chicago, Evanston or anywhere nearby, and are interested in talking to me in person about my project, please let me know as well. I would love to get input from a chef/cook with experiences in working in restaurants. 

I appreciate your help and I hope to get some replies soon. 
 
5,192
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Joined Jul 28, 2001
There are currently insulated handles that fit over the handles of sautee pans.

Anti-Slip-Heat-Resistant-Silicone-Handle-For.jpg_200x200.jpg


I have had visions of producing culinary safety items with my son. We dabbled a bit in Chromism, especially Thermochromism. Might want to check into that if you haven't already
 
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When making armbands, etc., remember that we sweat a lot and everything gets trashed... have you seen those towels at the end of the night?
 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Hi Kristine,

I think you have a good idea with some kind of sleeve to fit over handles that changes colour when hot. Silicone sleeves almost always end up in the sink or garbage., they just slide off, its the nature of silicone....

Mittens are only good for high production kitchens. By the time you get mittens on, I can have a pan out of the oven and work on something else. Mittens only make sense when you will be unloading an oven for 10 or more minutes, or taking heavy cumbersome roasting pans out.

Please, nothing attatched to the body. Cooks are constantly moving, brushing against stove knobs, door handles, shelving, and hot pots. So nothing attatched to the body.

Most serious burns happen with deep fryers, particularily in small kitchens. Large kitchens usually have 3 or more fryer plumbed up to a built in filtering unit and pump--no spills or burns. Small kitchens with only one fryer have to filter the oil separatly. I have a special place in my spleen, oozing with vitriol for N.American fryer mnfctrs. as they provide no built in safety features to filter oil, they just supply a length of pipe. Seriously, I was working with fryers 30 years ago in Europe that had built in filtering sytems.
 
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To: panini

Thank you for your input! I have looked into thermochromatic materials. I have ordered a sample package of them and are trying some things out. My other part of the design includes the "alert" aspect - to let chefs know something is hot before they even touch them. I was envisioning a line of colored silicone bands with thermochromatic strips attached that change color when the item reaches certain temperature that's dangerous for skin. 

The handles, I've also looked into some, but I shyed away from them because so many restaurants according to my research use tons of pans and pots without any handle coverings and providing the restaurants with many handles seemed unrealistic because the chefs would go through attaching individual handles to each pot and pans. Those also trap gunk between the tiny gap where the handles are slid into so maintenance could also be an issue. 

If there was some kind of a wearable that could simply be used as another version of a wrap-around-hand towel, would you be willing to use such a thing? 
 
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To: foodpump

Hello! Thank you for your feedback! 

That's a good point about the silicone sleeves...were there any particular ones you've used for such purposes? 

I'm wondering though, could there be a way to expedite the process of putting on an oven mitt? I was envisioning something more of a quick slip on that's more like a half mitt so you don't have to take the time to fully put the mitt over your entire hand. What do you currently use to quickly hold hot items? If you use a towel for hot things, do you place it somewhere in the kitchen when you're not using it?

Thank you for bringing up deep fryers as well. As you said, for small kitchens, the fryers require filtering oil separately. Does this cause burns from splashing against your hand and arms? Would you ever wear something on your arms that's comfortable and also breathable, and ideally could also be used as something to wrap your hand in to hold hot things? 
 
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To: Grande,

Thank you for your post! That is a really good point. I was envisioning a material that's similar to the Underarmour clothings that prevents collection of sweat on skin. I wanted to somehow mix such breathable material with a towel like material on one end for holding hot items. Would you ever wear something on your arm (assuming it's comfortable and doesn't make your arms sweaty) for holding hot items quickly (by simply pulling the band out to cover your hand with) even if you had towels you normally use with you? 
 
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Joined May 27, 2013
I don't have extensive experience in a commercial kitchen, but have experience in the design field. FWIW. . . 

Find a material for pan handles that dissipates heat (fast) enough that it won't burn skin (Tall order, I know. I suspect many manufacturers have already done R&D in this regard, and that's why it doesn't exist. Yet.).  I'm guessing most burns usually occur because someone isn't paying attention as a result of being slammed with tickets. I'd posit that placing a sleeve on the handle would reduce the number of burns simply because it slows down the process. Not something a line cooks wants when they're 'in the weeds.'

As a side note, I think anybody with any experience in a commercial kitchen learns the side towel thing. Quickly. It becomes second nature. Line cooks, in my experience, usually have at least two towels slipped  into their aprons. I used to roll a third one up and squeeze it between the small of my back and the apron strings in case the first two either became wet or too slimy/ dirty/ oily - or misplaced. Nothing like touching a blistering hot pan handle with a wet towel.  Yes. I've done that. 

RE : Sleeves. How about a new line of pans with a heat sensitive material strip already in the pan handle? Like Tefal with the red spot in the middle, only reversed. The only other thing I can think of is what foodpump said. Waste will be a big issue. These should be very cheap and in quantity. 
 
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@koak  ,

I feel most of the burns that occur on the kitchen line stem from a lack of focus on exactly what you're doing. This isn't a negative thing, it's just that sometimes there are so many things happening at one time you don't have the mental capacity to carry over the thought of danger before you make your next move. A good line cook is usually 3-5 steps ahead of him or herself. It compares to many challenges, like chess moves. This comment has nothing to do with multi tasking, but, THEN you throw in the danger of other cooks vessels and tools next to you and it's virtually impossible not to reach out without thinking. Then of course you're dealing with the noise of a single engine airplane landing between the line and the dining room.

So when I thought about what you are thinking about, I just ruled out anything that took an additional movement or thought to work. My son had the idea of developing a secondary skin (not glove) that you apply and is breathable that would be heat resistant. Something along the lines of that liquid bandaid stuff.

Well that ended when he went off to get a MIS, and engineering Masters. He did just leave a large computer co. to come home to do all his pre med and take the MCAT. He thinking i Limb and AI Limb. Who knows, after your Masters and such you guys can collaborate on something.
 
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It's not often I pick up a hot pan and burn the palm of my hand. I'm usually doubled up on t towel!

I tend to burn myself by nicking the corner of a pot, or a splash or spit of hot oil/water, I suppose to prevent burns in the kitchen you need to be more aware and don't touch hot stuff :p
 
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A kitchen is a dangerous place.  You are dealing with sharp knives, fire, and for the most part mentally unstable people using them.  I think its great to have an idea to help our industry but cooking is not that complicated.  Assume every pan is hot.  Smart people and experienced people always have a kitchen towel(or 2) on them and then there is no issue that you are searching to fix a problem.  Inexperienced or slow people used their bare hands to grab possibly smoking hot pans.  After a couple of good burns they usually become smart and experienced people.  If they keep burning themselves over and over then you have bigger problems to worry about with them,  Do I burn myself, yes all the time, are they serious and slow me down in anyway, no.  It's part of the job.  You can't play with fire with out getting burned.  Same goes for people who cut themselves often.  Yes, chefs cut themselves but it should never be a normal thing.  Usually its the same careless or hung over /high guys with cheap knives.  That's just the way things are in a real restaurant kitchen.  It's not corporate and not safe and never should be,  that's why I like what I do
 
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Joined May 27, 2013
 
A kitchen is a dangerous place.  You are dealing with sharp knives, fire, and for the most part mentally unstable people using them.   I think its great to have an idea to help our industry but cooking is not that complicated.  Assume every pan is hot.  Smart people and experienced people always have a kitchen towel(or 2) on them and then there is no issue that you are searching to fix a problem.  Inexperienced or slow people used their bare hands to grab possibly smoking hot pans.  After a couple of good burns they usually become smart and experienced people.  If they keep burning themselves over and over then you have bigger problems to worry about with them,  Do I burn myself, yes all the time, are they serious and slow me down in anyway, no.  It's part of the job.  You can't play with fire with out getting burned.  Same goes for people who cut themselves often.  Yes, chefs cut themselves but it should never be a normal thing.  Usually its the same careless or hung over /high guys with cheap knives.  That's just the way things are in a real restaurant kitchen.  It's not corporate and not safe and never should be,  that's why I like what I do
Excellent. I love your post. You nailed it. Can I quote the entire paragraph in other places? I thought I would just want to use the first two sentences but then upon reading the entire post, I realized you have a wonderful, insightful, accurate way of describing a commercial kitchen. Straight, no chaser. Kudos. 
 
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Go ahead its all good.  I'm American but decided to leave the states about 10 years ago and being a chef I'm able to work for the most part where I want. I left because of the direction the country was heading of being over safe, over sensitive, and over policed but that's a different story.  One of my last jobs in the states was exec sous chef at one the big ski resorts in Colorado.  After being hired I was informed that all of my cooks and me had to sign a contract to wear cut gloves and a latex glove over them.   I thought it was a joke at first.  How do you brunoise with a shark glove on your hand??  I told my staff to forget about them and do what we have to do to produce good food.  A intern cut herself weeks later and I had to deal with corporate grilling me why she got cut because she should have had a cut glove on.  They could have fired her and me because she broke the contract not wearing the glove.  ?????  Finished the ski season and on my way out told the corporate idiots with their degrees and theories on cooking who have never been behind a line what the real world of cooking to go f#ck themselves..  That was my last corporate restaurant job ever
 
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I had to deal with corporate grilling me why she got cut because she should have had a cut glove on.  They could have fired her and me because she broke the contract not wearing the glove.  ?????  Finished the ski season and on my way out told the corporate idiots with their degrees and theories on cooking who have never been behind a line what the real world of cooking to go f#ck themselves..  That was my last corporate restaurant job ever
I don't think you're getting the "bigger" picture. 

If there's one thing "corporate" can do well, it's to cover their arses. 

But from what? 

Gub-mint, that's what.  Don't know anything about the state of Colorado and it's laws on worker's compensation or labour law. 

Here in Vancouver the law is very simple, "The onus is on the employer" meaning the employer gets blame for everything and anything.  If an employer can proove (at his own expense, of course) that he took the proper steps to train and discipline the employee  in regards to safety, the case is dropped, but the employer is fined some other trumped up charge, never related to the initial case and sometimes going back as far as two years. n This crappola is modeled after Californy's labour laws.

Shark gloves, steel toed boots,  vinyl gloves all the time, whatever. Mainly the employer is trying to cover their arse from legal action should an incident occur.  No wonder Syck-co has so many prepped veg and convienience products, the people who buy them are the ones who've been fined for having someone cut themselves on a (plugged in...) meat slicer, or skating around the kitchen in flip-flops and halter-tops  
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2015
 
I don't think you're getting the "bigger" picture. 

If there's one thing "corporate" can do well, it's to cover their arses. 

But from what? 

Gub-mint, that's what.  Don't know anything about the state of Colorado and it's laws on worker's compensation or labour law. 

Here in Vancouver the law is very simple, "The onus is on the employer" meaning the employer gets blame for everything and anything.  If an employer can proove (at his own expense, of course) that he took the proper steps to train and discipline the employee  in regards to safety, the case is dropped, but the employer is fined some other trumped up charge, never related to the initial case and sometimes going back as far as two years. n This crappola is modeled after Californy's labour laws.

Shark gloves, steel toed boots,  vinyl gloves all the time, whatever. Mainly the employer is trying to cover their arse from legal action should an incident occur.  No wonder Syck-co has so many prepped veg and convienience products, the people who buy them are the ones who've been fined for having someone cut themselves on a (plugged in...) meat slicer, or skating around the kitchen in flip-flops and halter-tops  
That's why I left, instead of bitching and complaining, the world is a big place.  Just because you were born somewhere doesn't mean you have to stay there.  The whole sue everybody for anything USA attitude has really made common sense and accountability go out the window
 
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@hookedcook

Great insight. Well I guess. I guess all people who have accidents are stupid. 

Some people just like to stay in a shit eating world. I am so glad there are people like the OP who are trying to make a difference. Without out progressive thinkers

people would still be holding pieces of meat over a fire. But then again, I guess some of us still are. 
 
  Inexperienced or slow people used their bare hands to grab possibly smoking hot pans.
Profiling people as SLOW, speaks volume about you and the SLOW people probably burn themselves because intelligent people like you leave hot pans around.

I enjoy being a corporate idiot with degrees, I guess that's why it makes my day when a Executive Sous Chef tells me to go f__k myself. It grounds me and drives to

go do something something charitable. 
 
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That's why I left, instead of bitching and complaining, the world is a big place.  Just because you were born somewhere doesn't mean you have to stay there.  The whole sue everybody for anything USA attitude has really made common sense and accountability go out the window


Ah, I see.... Thing is, I own my business and have the gumption to educate myself and work around gov't laws. I did this after working in three different continents and six countries. "sue everybody for anything USA" doesn't fly here, the gov't fines, not sues.

Don't take it the wrong way, but I'm trying to educate you too on how and why other people think the way they do. Doesn't mean you have to agree, just be informed and use that informatin to your advantage.
 
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@hookedcook

Great insight. Well I guess. I guess all people who have accidents are stupid. 

Some people just like to stay in a shit eating world. I am so glad there are people like the OP who are trying to make a difference. Without out progressive thinkers

people would still be holding pieces of meat over a fire. But then again, I guess some of us still are. 

Profiling people as SLOW, speaks volume about you and the SLOW people probably burn themselves because intelligent people like you leave hot pans around.

I enjoy being a corporate idiot with degrees, I guess that's why it makes my day when a Executive Sous Chef tells me to go f__k myself. It grounds me and drives to

go do something something charitable. 
No accidents happen, that's life.  Constant accidents or people claiming workmens comp for superficial accidents created by someones lack of judgment or skills is their own fault.  Unfortunately the US is one of the few places in the world where you can be negligent, hurt yourself and then sue and blame someone else and actually make money off it.  Meat over fire???Are you serious.  I don't need a silicon pad on a handle of a sauté pan that changes colors to let me know the pan is hot.  Once again, the reason I left the states.  The reason I know the pan is hot and use a towel to pick it up is because there is a bright yellow and blue gas flame underneath it so I know its hot. As for the exec sous comment, my boss was cool and we had no problems, we dealt with corporate together.  In the end after I gave my notice and the corporate guys who hadn't worked on a line in 20 years asked why I told them my reasons.  Didn't pull a 1/2 baked quitting the grill episode.  It was a good thing, now I'm cooking on a 20 million dollar yacht and no cut gloves or lawyers.  Cheers
 
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I don't think you're getting the "bigger" picture. 

If there's one thing "corporate" can do well, it's to cover their arses. 

But from what? 

Gub-mint, that's what.  Don't know anything about the state of Colorado and it's laws on worker's compensation or labour law. 

Here in Vancouver the law is very simple, "The onus is on the employer" meaning the employer gets blame for everything and anything.  If an employer can proove (at his own expense, of course) that he took the proper steps to train and discipline the employee  in regards to safety, the case is dropped, but the employer is fined some other trumped up charge, never related to the initial case and sometimes going back as far as two years. n This crappola is modeled after Californy's labour laws.

Shark gloves, steel toed boots,  vinyl gloves all the time, whatever. Mainly the employer is trying to cover their arse from legal action should an incident occur.  No wonder Syck-co has so many prepped veg and convienience products, the people who buy them are the ones who've been fined for having someone cut themselves on a (plugged in...) meat slicer, or skating around the kitchen in flip-flops and halter-tops  
I have been here on this issue with the corporate suits. They really only think about money. They are bean counters after all. They are not cooks or Chefs. Understandably they don't get the idea that wearing a cut-glove and a latex glove over it does not allow for handling a knife properly and executing the job. Their only issue is and will always be saving money.
 
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ChefRoss, I'll respect what you're saying because you have great experience. But I just can't listen to listen to someone spout about something they read in the papers or watch on TV.

Leave the country, but don't trash it. Fact is, there is little under 2% of workers comp claims that are fraudulent. We got workers compensation here in the US from Europe (France, Germany).

I just felt it rude to put down the ideas of the OP. who's out to get a Masters, not make a buck. Then call people slow because they burn themselves. Enjoy your yacht. There a dime a dozen anyway. There is more for sale then VW's. Plus there wouldn't be any jobs on them if not for corporations.' That's all from me'. I like the OP trying to think outside the box and maybe try to help the slow people. Fact is, this industry would be better off with more slow people. 
 

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