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Although often overlooked, food service workers have a few more risks for injury in the workplace than office workers. Long hours on their feet and a long list of repetitive tasks are to blame. Injuries aren’t ideal for workers or employers.

Many restaurants and pubs are small businesses with fewer than fifty employees. In some jurisdictions, their small size protects the company from some or all obligations to comply with safety regulations–which means these considerations are often an afterthought for employers and employees.

But make no mistake–the risk is real, and it means these small businesses pay direct and indirect costs every time that an employee slips and falls or cuts a finger. Luckily, awareness is the first line of defense to prevent accidents, and sharing information is free. So, what kind of hazards should these employees be on the lookout for?

Common Injuries Reported by Foodservice Workers

Bartenders, line cooks, and waitstaff all spend a considerable amount of time lifting and carrying dishes. They work around sources of extreme heat like fryers and grills, and they work with some strong chemicals when it comes time to clean up. They do all of this in the presence of unpredictable customers that might accidentally cause a spill, trip, or fall. Or worse, cause a violent altercation.

Common injuries reported:

  • Muscle strains and sprains
  • Cuts (broken glass, knives)
  • Burns (steam, grease, flame)
  • Chemical Exposure
  • Noise Exposure
  • Assault (bruises, other)
  • Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI)

Related: Tips for Creating an Effective Workplace Safety Program

Estimated Cost (to Businesses) for Workplace Safety

Foodservice industry workers are very likely to experience mild to moderate injuries during the course of employment. Routine job activities pose a significant risk. And while some injuries are minor, an injury in the workplace can cost an employer a lot more than you think. 

The average restaurant, bar, or cafe reports four workers’ compensation claims per year. Those claims cost these businesses an average of $45,600 per year in insurance premiums, lost labor, and lost productivity. 

And, according to OSHA, the power to reduce these costs belongs to the restaurant or bar owner. For every $1 invested in a safety program, the business will save $4 – $6 in reduced accident claims.

But it doesn’t have to be big and fancy. If you are a small business working with a small budget, there are low-cost, high-impact steps you can take to create a safer workplace.

Arrow Up provides engaging and effective training solutions for the foodservice industry. Set up a plan to develop your leadership, conduct compliance training, or roll out a new safety program. Contact us today.


What Business Owners Can Do to Promote Workplace Safety

The burden to create a safe workplace belongs to the establishment owner. While not all accidents are preventable, owners can take a few precautions to limit their risk and promote a safe workplace. Sometimes the awareness of industry safety is enough to encourage safe behaviors that prevent accidents.

Make First Aid Supplies Accessible

Place a well-stocked first aid kit with bandages, gauze, tape, burn cream, antibiotic and antiseptic in a prominent place where your employees can access it. Keep the supplies stocked and keep encouraging employees to use them. Some restaurant or bar owners get miffed that employees take advantage of free supplies. 

Instead of getting hung up on the details, focus on the prevention aspect. A burn treated with first aid supplies prevents an infection that results in a worker’s compensation claim. Your employees might use the supplies, but rather than being annoyed, consider the usage as a sign that you are preventing bigger hazards.

Require Anti-Slip Surfaces

Install anti-slip surfaces in your kitchen and dining room areas where employees will travel to serve food and beverages. Plus, encourage or require all of your staff to wear anti-slip shoes while at work. Inappropriate footwear contributes to falls and injuries, and anti-slip footwear for restaurant workers is effective and widely available.

Related: What does it mean to be OSHA-compliant during COVID-19

Provide the Right Equipment

Every stockroom and every kitchen is unique, but we are willing to bet that there is at least one area where you have taken advantage of vertical storage. Or, there is at least one opportunity where your staff will have to handle large, cumbersome cases. Consider providing step ladders and hand trucks where appropriate to discourage unsafe climbing or lifting.

Label Everything

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is pretty clear–your chemicals must be labeled. Enforce strict rules with your employees about properly labeling cleaning chemicals, ingredients, and storage areas. Labeling systems improve organization and promote safety. Plus, we bet a good labeling system will improve efficiency in your kitchen too!


Adhere to Routine Maintenance Schedules

Create a weekly, monthly, and quarterly checklist to inspect all of the equipment in the work area. Detailed cleaning and maintenance reporting will help keep everything in your restaurant in working condition. That means it will perform better and be safer for your employees. You can limit the risk of accidental injury from frayed wires or electrical shorts.

Personnel Safety

Foodservice workers are at a disproportionate risk for violence in the workplace. Delivery drivers make easy targets for cash grabs, and bartenders have frequent exposure to intoxicated patrons. Make sure you never leave your employees alone; at a minimum, two employees should be present in the building at all times. In fact, three-quarters of all workplace deaths are attributed to acts of violence.

Provide Some Training

Take time to educate your employees about what to do in the event of a robbery, or to make sure they feel comfortable working with the fryers or using knives. Taking time to go through the steps promotes awareness and can help employees recognize dangers so they can be more proactive.

Related: 4 Best Practices for New Employee Safety Training in Restaurants

So, the bottom line is that workplace safety isn’t just for big companies or high-risk factories. Restaurant and bar staff commonly report injuries resulting from burns, slips, falls, or even workplace violence. Each year, these claims add up to big expenses for these small businesses. However, establishment owners can mitigate their risks by investing in things like safety training, equipment maintenance, and appropriate signage. 

Arrow Up provides cost-effective training solutions for compliance and safety programs that are tailored to the foodservice industry. Browse our courses and sign up for a demo today.