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Keeping restaurant workers safe

Restaurant workers are an under-appreciated part of our society. They work long hours on their feet, put up with rude comments and difficult requests, manage a large number of tasks at once and somehow keep a smile on their faces whether they are serving, bussing, cooking or cleaning.

This constant bustle makes them prone to injuries.

What injuries do restaurant workers suffer? And how can we help keep restaurant workers safe? Now is as good a time as ever to explore these topics as a new crew of teenagers is ready to learn the ropes at their summer restaurant jobs.

Most common restaurant injuries

According to a 2011 study by Cintas Corporation, the top four injuries to restaurant workers are:

  1. Cuts: It should come as no surprise that cuts are the number one injury for cooks and other restaurant staff. Knives, broken dishes and meat slicers frequently cause both minor and major injuries.
  2. Burns: Approximately 12,000 restaurant workers are injured every year by burns caused from stovetops, grease, hot water and hot plates, among other things.
  3. Sprains: Slip-and-falls and trip-and-falls often cause serious strains and sprains, particularly when servers are carrying large trays of food or navigating around chairs and tables.
  4. Injuries to the eyes: Grease and chemical injuries to eyes are the fourth-most common injuries to restaurant workers.

Other common restaurant injuries include repetitive stress injuries, muscle injuries, dislocations, illnesses caused by the use of cleaning solutions, assault and psychological injuries.

How can we keep restaurant workers safe?

Many of these injuries are preventable with the proper safety guidelines, appropriate goals/team management and a strong safety culture.

Here are some tips that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has for restaurant employers to help prevent injury and, consequently, save money:

  • Encourage your employees to speak up if something they are doing on a daily basis is causing them pain.
  • Consider ergonomics when designing your workplace.
  • Provide lifting equipment wherever possible to prevent lift injuries and train to proper lifting techniques.
  • Clean up slippery floors quickly and ensure there is enough lighting for employees to see obstacles.
  • Warn employees of the hazards of hot stoves, grease and oil. Give workers protective equipment and enforce wearing it.
  • Give employees frequent breaks from standing in one spot or performing the same motion continuously. Rotate workers between tasks/duties in order to provide variability for their bodies and minds.
  • Ensure all your machines have guards and only allow trained employees (and employees who are legally old enough) to run machines.
  • Consider whether incentive plans for "working quickly" are contributing to injury. Set an appropriate pace that workers should follow.
  • Maintain your kitchen tools to ensure knives are always sharp and train workers on the correct way to use knives.
  • Consider buying countertops that adjust to each worker's height. Ensure that all materials are easy to reach.
  • Put all storage items, menus and other objects workers may use in a location where employees do not have to bend down or reach to access them.

These are a few of the many tips that restaurant owners can follow to protect their employees. For more ideas, please visit OSHA's report, Keeping the Restaurant Safe Is No Accident.

When a restaurant worker is injured

Restaurant workers who are injured at work are eligible for workers' compensation. Employees should seek immediate medical attention for their injury and report the injury to their employer. Then, they should speak with a lawyer about workers' compensation, particularly if their injury is significant.

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KCNS Law Group, LLP
100 W. Broadway
Suite 1130
Glendale, California 91210

Toll Free: 800-391-8431
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