Safe use of knives in the kitchen

This page contains information and guidance to help you take steps to prevent knife accidents.

What you must do

You must ensure that your employees are kept safe from harm so far as is reasonably practicable. You must assess the risk of your employees being cut by knives and take reasonable precautions. 

What are the risks?

  • Accidents involving knives are common in the catering industry. They usually involve cuts to the non-knife hand and fingers but can lead to injuries on the upper arm and torso.
  • Cleavers are commonly used for chopping and the same controls for knives should be adopted.

Ways to minimise the risk


  • Train employees in the safe use of knives and safe working practices when sharpening them
  • Use a knife suitable for the task and for the food you are cutting
  • Keep knives sharp
  • Cut on a stable surface
  • Handle knives carefully when washing up
  • Carry a knife with the blade pointing downwards
  • Store knives securely after use, eg in a scabbard or container
  • Use protective equipment as required. For deboning, it is recommended that a suitable protective glove is worn on the non-knife hand, and a chainmail or similar apron is worn.


  • Leave knives loose on worktop surfaces where they can be accidentally pushed off
  • Try to catch a falling knife
  • Use a knife as a can opener
  • Carry knives while carrying other objects
  • Engage in horseplay with a knife
  • Carry a knife in your pocket

Find out more

Case study: What can go wrong?

While trying to open a 25 kilo bag of potatoes, the commis chef sliced the corner of the bag using a 12-inch fish filleting knife. With the knife still in his right hand pointing upwards, he then attempted to move the bag. The cut section of bag gave way causing the knife to be thrust upwards into his face, causing a severe laceration.

This is an actual reported accident that shows what can happen when trying to carry a bag whilst still holding a knife. A change in working practices would have avoided this accident, for example using a safety knife.

Some industry examples of good practice in the safe use of knives

Part of the work of the Hospitality Industry Liaison Forum is in sharing good practice. Here are some industry examples of good practice in safe use of knives (reproduced with permission) that members are happy to share.

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Updated 2023-09-08