Restaurant workers and the workplace hazards they face

By Goodwin Como, P.C.

Restaurant workers often are under pressure to work fast. Customers need to be served, food must be prepared, and the business needs to be tidy and clean. But while they’re doing their utmost to keep the restaurant running and the customers satisfied, wait staff, bussers, cooks, kitchen workers, dishwashers and maintenance staff are susceptible to injury.

Slipping on wet floors, hot oil burns from the deep fryer, severe cuts from a knife while preparing food, and back strains from excessive or awkward heavy-lifting are some of the hazards faced by restaurant staff. Their causes run the gamut from carrying heavy trays filled with customer food orders to preparing and cutting ingredients with food processors and sharp knives in the kitchen.

Safety, ergonomic, health

Most restaurant injuries are preventable. The workplace hazards faced by restaurant workers can be predominately placed in the following categories:

  • Safety: This would include slippery floors, sharp knives and hot ovens that could lead to injuries such as broken bones, cuts and burns. Slips and falls are common in many workplaces. Many restaurant workers suffer burns when placing frozen foods in deep fryers or while cleaning the fryers. Robberies and assaults also can be placed in this category.
  • Ergonomic: Sprains and strains from repetitive motions, heavy and awkward lifting tasks can cause fatigue and joint pain in the arms and hands. Another hazard is standing for long periods, which can cause “chef’s foot” leading to pain and stiffness in the joints.
  • Health: Chemicals, heat and stress are within this group. Chemicals in cleaning and dishwashing products used to sanitize a restaurant can cause rashes and headaches.

Cuts, scrapes most common injury

A recent report cited cuts, punctures and scrapes as the most frequent injury sustained by restaurant workers. In its 2017 Restaurant Loss Cost Trends Report, Marsh Risk Consulting noted that 24 percent of restaurant workers’ compensation claims were attributed to this category in 2016.

Focusing on injury prevention is critical for any business. When management collaborates with employees and addresses safety hazards, it’s a win-win situation. Businesses such as restaurants will likely will see a reduction in claims for workers’ compensation; improved morale among employees; and minimal productivity loss when injuries occur.

If you get injured on the job, please tell your supervisor. If the injury is severe enough, your employer is required by law to provide workers’ compensation benefits. And if you have ideas on how to improve hazardous workplace situations, please speak up. You just may help some of your colleagues avoid an injury.