Restaurant work can be stable, decent-paying employment for those with a strong work ethic, even if they have no college education or professional job training. Someone can work their way up in a kitchen and eventually command decent wages by starting as a prep cook right out of high school.
However, the dark side of all of that opportunity is the risk that line cooks and other culinary professionals assume on the job. The kitchen is one of the most dangerous places in the house, and it is also one of the most dangerous professional spaces.
There are traumatic injury risks everywhere in the kitchen
Culinary professionals often spend much of their day bent over open flame on a stove, working in close proximity to intensely hot ovens and handling incredibly sharp knives. There could also be dangerous slicing equipment or even chemical exposure risks due to culinary trends that incorporate things like dry ice.
All it takes is a second of distraction for a cook to cut themselves to the bone, give themselves a third-degree burn or slip on the floor and suffer a brain injury. Cuts and burns are among the top job risks for cooks.
The high-pressure work that occurs in a kitchen combined with so many risk factors in a small space means that those in the kitchen who get hurt often can’t work again until they fully heal.
There are plenty of more subtle risks for those in a kitchen as well
You could successfully avoid cutting yourself with a knife or burning yourself and still develop a career-ending injury if you work in a kitchen.
Repetitive motion injuries from handling knives and other kitchen equipment can cause chronic pain and impact your grip strength, making it dangerous for you to handle knives in the future. You may also develop pain in your knees, hips or back from standing so much.
Workers in kitchens should know that they have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits in California regardless of whether they develop a repetitive motion injury from doing the same work for decades or suffer a traumatic incident on the job, even if they are the ones who technically caused the injury. Talking about your job and the injury you suffered with an attorney can give you an idea of what options you have.