From cuts and burns to slips and falls, restaurants can present numerous dangers to their employees. It is important for restaurant and bar owners to assume a proactive approach to preventing work-related injuries, instead of taking a reactive approach to safety. Below is a listing of the top injuries that occur most often in restaurants and bars each year. Food service operators need to make sure they have the proper products and programs in place to prevent and handle injury situations.
Lacerations and Punctures
Sharp knives, slicers, broken dishes and broken glassware are typically the main culprits when it comes to lacerations and punctures in a food service setting. Accidents can be prevented by ensuring that your employees know how to properly handle, use and store cutlery. It is also a good idea to enforce policies that require employees to unplug slicers, mixers, blenders and similar kitchen equipment when it is not in use and especially before cleaning. Cut resistant gloves also help to prevent injuries that may happen while using cutlery or while cleaning up broken dishes or glassware. Employees should also be advised to never use their bare hands to compress waste items in a trash can, as there could be sharp or hazardous elements in the waste bin.
Boiling water, hot oil, and heated cooking surfaces are all typical hazards in a food service environment. Heat and water burns are the most common types of burns that occur in a restaurant. Employees should be advised to use hand protection like oven mitts and hot pads when handling heated dishes and food. It’s also never a good idea to transport containers that hold hot oil or boiling water. Fryers and hot cooking pots should always be allowed to cool completely before cleaning. Employees should also use caution when opening ovens or dishwashers, as hot steam or smoke can also cause damage to skin and eyes. In addition to preventing incidental burns, you should also make sure your fire suppression system is tested regularly and your grease filters in your exhaust hoods are kept clean. Both of these maintenance tasks could prove to be lifesaving if you are ever to encounter a cooking fire.
Sprains and Strains
Improper lifting practices are one of the main causes of muscle strain in the restaurant industry. Employees should be instructed on proper lifting techniques, and should have access to material handling equipment such as carts or dollies. Hard-to-reach items can cause worker injury due to overreaching, so it is also important to arrange work areas so that materials are within convenient reaching or lifting distances. In storage areas, ensure that heavy items are placed on lower shelves or the floor, so they easily be transferred onto a cart or picked up with a dolly.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Greasy or wet flooring surfaces can lead to slips and falls. You can help prevent hazardous floor conditions by using nonskid floor mats and by encouraging your employees to wear rubber soled and slip-resistant footwear. It is also important to educate your employees on how to properly clean up different types of spills and to mop floors regularly. Make sure your employees have access to ladders or stepstools for climbing, rather than unsafe substitutes such as chairs, stools or boxes. Be sure to examine any climbing apparatuses often, and always err on the side of caution and dispose of such items if you are at all unsure about their stability or construction.
Many companies have also found success in reducing accidents when they institute a safety program. Typically these programs reward employees after they achieve a certain number of days with no accidents. A tally of the accident free days is usually kept in a visible area, like the breakroom or near the time clock. While most injuries are accidental, these programs do help to remind employees to continually use preventative measures when possible, reducing the likelihood of accidents.
It is also extremely important for food service operators to ensure that all employees have easy access to first aid supplies. By implementing a first aid program, restaurants can help protect their workers and reduce expenses. Below are a few ideas that can help prepare foodservice operations for common injuries.
- Install an onsite first-aid cabinet and make sure it is easily accessible to employees.
- Stock the cabinet with a wide selection of supplies to treat common foodservice injuries.
- Ensure that the cabinet is restocked on a regular basis, by performing regular inventory checks.
- Make sure that your cabinet is sized appropriately for the amount of employees working in your restaurant. This will help you reduce the frequency of restocking.
- Train and educate employees on proper use of the first-aid items and how to handle emergency situations.
When accidents do occur the incident should be reported immediately and investigated by a manager so that you can determine the cause of the accident. Managers will also need to ensure that the injury is properly healed or dressed before the employee returns to work. This will help eliminate any chance of blood borne pathogens from contaminating kitchen areas and food, and will be instrumental in providing any needed documentation for possibly injury-related insurance claims. By identifying the cause of accidents and following all procedures, you can hopefully prevent future accidents from happening.