Ergonomics in the Kitchen - Cooking Tips

Ergonomics in the Kitchen - Cooking Tips
Ergonomic principles can help you avoid injuries at home as well as at work. As a hand therapist, I have treated a variety of both traumatic and repetitive hand injuries related to cooking tasks including: lacerations from attempts to pit avocados, slice bagels, and carve pumpkins; injuries caused by poor work practices, poor quality equipment, and poorly maintained equipment; wrist fractures from slips and falls due to spills; tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive injuries in chefs and line cooks. Here are some tips - based on ergonomic guidelines - that will make your cooking activities more enjoyable, comfortable and safe.

Avoiding Cuts
    To avoid hand lacerations, do not attempt to remove the seed from an avocado held in the palm of the hand by thrusting a sharp knife into it. Too often, the knife can slide off the pit and severely cut the palm of the hand. There are commercially available pitters that are much safer for the amateur cook to use. Or try holding half an avocado in the hand and gently, rhythmically squeeze it to loosen the pit. In addition, be particularly careful when cutting food items that roll or do not lie flat on a cutting board, are dense or hard or frozen, or are awkwardly shaped.

    Second, use good quality knives that have a hand block that prevents the hand from sliding down the blade.

    And finally, keep your knives sharpened and in good working condition. A sharp knife cuts more efficiently with less force needed during cutting activity. The hand is less likely to slip down that blade when less force is used. Also the hand will be less stressed and fatigued. Some knife manufacturers are now producing ergonomically designed handles that fit well in the hand.
Avoiding Repetitive Injuries/Tendinitis
    The blades of can openers and other cutting tools should be sharp. Use electric equipment to take the stress off the hands (for example, electric can openers, jar openers; carving knives). Food processors can reduce the need for hand intensive chopping, shredding and slicing.

    The Good Grips kitchen line by OXO offers a variety of kitchen implements that have a large and cushioned grip to minimize the strain on the hands while preparing foods. If you do not have an electric can opener, I particularly recommend their manual can opener. Their potato peeler is also quite nice, especially for arthritic joints or sore hands.
Avoiding Back & Shoulder Aches
    Use proper body mechanics in the kitchen. Keep items used most frequently within easy reach to avoid repetitive reaching, lifting and bending. Whenever possible, slide heavy pots and pans along the counter top (place them on a kitchen towel or cloth pot-holder first) instead of lifting.
Avoiding Slips & Falls
    Lastly, be aware of safety issues. Wipe up spills immediately to prevent slips and falls. Be aware of the location of hot and sharp objects. Wash knives immediately and place them in a safe place. Never leave sharp knives lying in the sink where they may be hidden by other dishes or sudsy water.
Mostly, take the time to slow down, relax and enjoy the process of cooking. Being aware of your environment and following these tips will help ensure that you spend quality holiday time with your family and not in an emergency room.

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