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How to prevent workplace injuries

restaurant safety

Having a food-safety crisis is right at the top of any foodservice operator’s list of nightmares. But a very close—and dangerous—second to that is an on-site accident. By their very nature, restaurants have many places where employee safety can be put in jeopardy, such as the kitchen, the loading dock and the trash disposal area, just to name a few.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 200,000 reportable non-fatal injuries in the restaurant and tavern segment in 2015. Add to that the hundreds of thousands of unreported minor injuries that occur annually, and the lost labor and revenue become staggering to calculate.

Jonathan Deutsch, professor of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and “Advice Guy” columnist for Restaurant Business, has some insight on what operators need to think about to help prevent costly accidents.

Q. While restaurant operators are very rightly concerned with preventing food-safety accidents, what are some of the other back-of-house hazards or issues that they might not often think about?

Deutsch: Operators are often focused on food safety because the reputational and financial impact of a foodborne illness outbreak can be devastating. But hazards abound. Kitchens are dangerous places filled with knives, fire and grease. Slips and falls, burns, cuts and injuries from machines are all common.

Q. For operators, workplace accidents can lead to employee downtime and monetary loss. Are there other ramifications and/or costs that are incurred when there’s an accident onsite?

Deutsch: Besides potential healthcare and insurance costs, morale is something that must be considered as well as the cost of training a replacement employee who fills in or replaces an injured employee.

Q. In your opinion, do most back-of-house accidents occur because of negligence, improper training or some other reason?

Deutsch: A combination. Some accidents are inevitable—that’s why they are called accidents. But some you can see coming. For example, I worked in a restaurant with a prep kitchen downstairs and a rickety staircase connecting the two kitchens. It was only a matter of time before someone took a dive.

Q. What about moving and disposal of used cooking oil? It seems like that’s one thing that could present some major dangers, yet isn’t discussed much.

Deutsch: Slips and falls are probably the most common workplace injury, and spilled oil is a common cause. Oil is heavy, so it needs to be properly transported to not cause back sprain, be covered to not spill and be at a cool enough temperature to not cause scalds. 

This post is sponsored by Restaurant Technologies

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