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How Can I Make My Restaurant a Safer Place to Work?

The most common injuries in the restaurant business might surprise you

Quick take: Reducing restaurant safety risks

  • Sprains and strains are the most common types of injuries among restaurant employees.
  • Regularly reminding employees of safety procedures may lessen chance of injuries.
  • Consider inviting a local expert, such as a physical therapist, to review methods for lifting heavy boxes and reducing repetitive motion injuries with employees.

Q.  I own a small neighborhood restaurant and most of my employees have been in the restaurant business for years — they know their way around a kitchen and dining room. One of our line cooks recently took a nasty fall; he's recovering and okay, but the ripple effect this one injury has had on my business got me thinking. Although my employees are trained in standard restaurant safety procedures, I'm wondering if there are other creative or proactive ways we can reduce the risk of accidents.

We posed this question to Larry Little, a Insurance Holdings agent based in Chandler, Arizona. Here's what he had to say about restaurant and employee safety.

A.  You used the magic word: proactive. As an owner, you already know restaurants are full of potential safety hazards. It's a fast-paced business with more foot traffic than most retail or office environments—not to mention the flames, slippery surfaces and sharp knives in the kitchen.

 

I often remind restaurant owners I work with that the most common types of injuries and accidents are sprains and strains, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opens in new window. In restaurants, OSHA finds, the leading causes of sprains and strains opens in new window are lifting heavy boxes or objects, repetitive tasks (like food prep and service), slips, trips and falls.

 

To reduce the risk of lifting injuries, one business owner I worked with hired a local physical therapist to come in during staff meals to talk about proper lifting techniques. She talked about simple solutions, like having two people lift a heavy box instead of one, and having a hand trucks available for employees to use. She also talked about how rotating prep or line cooks into different positions throughout the day, or providing an ergonomic mat for them to stand on, can curb strains and other repetitive stress injuries. The therapist also shared some dramatic stories about treating these injuries — I think that made an impact.

 

Of course, this isn't an option for every business. But you can find similar resources through your local National Safety Council or through a regional OSHA Training Institute Education Center.

 

Additional or brighter lighting can improve visibility and help reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls in a restaurant, according to OSHA opens in new window. Owners and managers should also consider making it a habit to repeat quick safety tips to employees, such as reminding employees to:

 

  • Wear appropriate, slip-proof shoes.
  • Check rugs and mats frequently to correct loose or damaged sections that can trip employees or customers.
  • Immediately place wet floor signs or cones and address spills, tracked-in water or snow, or excessively polished areas on bare floors, which can be as slippery.
  • Use bright tape or caution signs on stairs to warn customers about uneven or stepped flooring.
  • Keep all walkways in the kitchen clear of boxes and other clutter or trash.
  • Check the integrity of the weather stripping on the walk-in refrigerator — is there any ice buildup?
  • Check the bathroom — are the floors clean and dry? Are there any plumbing leaks or slippery spots?

 

It may seem repetitive, saying it day after day, but repetition can help these simple accident prevention checks become ingrained in your restaurant's culture. It becomes second nature, like rolling silverware.

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