The hustle and bustle of restaurants, as lively and entertaining as it can be, faces an inevitable enemy: danger. There’s a risk around every corner, and accidents are bound to happen. Yet, while restaurants tend to experience a relatively high frequency of low-severity accidents, such as slips and falls, back-of-hours (BOH) and front-of-house (FOH) incidents can burn both your employees’ well-being and your bottom line.
Combining the very nature of the work with the seemingly revolving door of restaurant workers and establishments that are ill prepared for safety can create a recipe for disaster. The good news is that managers can adopt safer practices today to mitigate the inherent risk in running a restaurant. Start by integrating and enforcing these restaurant safety tips to protect your workers and keep everything flowing smoothly.
Identify Common Injuries and Their Causes
For FOH and BOH employees, awareness is an important step toward creating a safer workplace. By identifying common injuries and their causes, restaurants can better prepare to handle and actively prevent such accidents from happening. While some initiatives might seem obvious, there’s value in calling attention to the small acts that staff members can adopt throughout their shift to avoid unnecessary risks. Some of the most common restaurant injuries include:
- Cuts, Lacerations, and Punctures
According to the National Restaurant Association, cuts and lacerations account for roughly 22% of foodservice injuries. Most of these types of accidents occur when using knives for peeling, dicing, mincing, and slicing. Broken dishes and powered tools – such as blenders and meat grinders – can also pose a safety threat. Employees can minimize their risk by:
- Always wearing cut-resistant gloves when needed
- Sharpening blades to improve accuracy and decrease strain
- Cutting away from, not toward, the body
- Ensuring all guards and safety devices are in place on machinery
- Discarding broken or chipped dishes and glassware
- Slips, Trips, and Falls
Though slips and trips can happen anywhere, they are particularly prevalent in the restaurant industry and lead to approximately 20% of workplace injuries. From uneven floors and unexpected tripping hazards to spilled beverages and greasy floors, there are a variety of reasons why these accidents are so common in foodservice. Ways to prevent slips and trips include:
- Wearing slip-resistant shoes or shoe coverings
- Securing all rugs, carpets, and mats
- Using appropriate safety signage
- Cleaning spills and splashes immediately
- Keeping walkways well-lit and decluttered
- Eliminating grease from floors daily
- Sprains, Strains, and Overexertion
“One would think that burns are the top safety issue, because you almost never see a back-of-the-house employee without some level of burns. It turns out injuries from lifting are actually more common,” says Tina Swanson, vice president of customer experience for Restaurant Technologies. “These accidents that can result in soft tissue injuries and back strains can result in extremely high medical costs plus wage replacement.”
Swanson noted that lifting 35-pound jugs of frying oil is often the culprit of back injury and Restaurant Technologies’ research shows sprains and strains on average are the most expensive. These lifting-related claims can average around $156,993 if they result in a permanent disability. You can help your employees avoid these injuries by:
- Eliminating obstacles that workers must reach over
- Storing heavier objects between chest and knuckle height
- Providing dollies and other appropriate lifting devices
- Requiring training in manual handling skills
- Requiring two or more workers to carry heavy objects
- Burns and Scalds
Approximately 13% of food industry accidents are burns or scalds. Though these account for the least amount of incidents annually, they can lead to long-lasting or fatal injuries that put your employees at serious risk. The majority of burns in the kitchen are caused by cooking oil, steam, hot surfaces, and hot objects such as pans. Workers can decrease their risk of experiencing a burn with these protocols:
- Turning off stoves when not in use
- Keeping handles of pots and pans turned away from the body
- Allowing pressure cookers and steamers to cool before opening
- Never leaning over pots of boiling liquid or oil
- Never standing on a hot fryer to clean ventilation hoods or filters
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Prevention can mean the difference between a safe and efficient workplace and a costly or unpredictable accident. Investing in safety features is another way to prevent accidents throughout your business. Some of the best ways to improve the safety of your restaurant include:
- Requiring slip-resistant shoes and installing anti-slip flooring or mats
- Providing safety signage and appropriate personal protective equipment
- Keeping all equipment well-maintained and in good working order
- Maintaining the building, including lighting and electrical systems
- Keeping safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, readily available
- Establishing daily cleaning policies and procedures
Train Your Staff
Making safety a fundamental part of your business will equip your staff with the tools and knowledge they need to avoid injuring themselves or others. Each employee needs to be well-versed in safe operation of all equipment, as well as general safety protocols and procedures. To do so, treat safety conversations with the same care and gravity as you discuss labor, food costs, turnover, or sales. Provide thorough and ongoing training to reinforce restaurant safety compliance.
Implement Kitchen Fire Safety Measures
In addition to the common injuries we’ve covered, restaurants also have all the ingredients for a fire. From open flames and cooking oils to cleaning chemicals and electrical connections, a devastating blow is only a spark away. Though kitchen fire prevention is an involved process, you can reduce the chances of an incident by training your staff to:
- Find and use a fire extinguisher effectively
- Always clean up grease, including in exhaust hoods
- Never throw water onto a grease fire
- Properly store flammable liquids and materials
- Use and store chemical solutions properly
Create An Emergency Plan
If an accident occurs in your restaurant, your staff must take control of the situation. In some instances, they may even need to shut down operations and lead customers to safety. Creating a solid emergency plan and thoroughly training your team could mean the difference between a small incident and a life-threatening situation. Here are some factors to consider when developing an emergency plan for your restaurant:
- Emergency contact information: All emergency contact information should be kept in a central location that all employees can easily access if necessary.
- Safety equipment accessibility: First aid kits, fire extinguishers, and other safety equipment should be available and ready to use at all times.
- Evacuation routes and procedures: Evacuation routes should be pre-planned, well-marked, and completely unobstructed.
- Powering down when necessary: At least one worker per shift should know how to shut off gas and electrical power in case of a fire or other emergency.
- Medical or fire training: Invest in basic first aid and fire safety training for your employees so they can respond appropriately in any situation. Have your staff refresh their certifications annually to ensure they are always up-to-date.
Reduce the Risk of Human Error
Even with proper preparation and training, human error is still a factor in accidents and injuries in restaurants. However, innovative technology can remove this component. Investing in the right equipment can help you avoid injuries altogether by taking labor out of the equation when it comes to particularly risky tasks.
Cooking oil is perhaps the most dangerous component in any kitchen, and it can lead to a variety of severe injuries including slips, burns, and strains. That’s why Restaurant Technologies developed a suite of tools and services designed to remove the common risks associated with fryers and oil. From automatic grease cleaning to hands-free oil disposal, we have a range of solutions that can simplify daily tasks while reducing safety threats in your business.
Contact Restaurant Technologies today to discover the safety of an automated frying oil system.
- National Restaurant Association (restaurant.org)
- Training Products – National Safety Compliance (osha-safety-training.net)
- Emergency Action Plan for Retail Food Establishments (foodprotect.org)
- Red Cross Training | Take a Class (redcross.org)
- Emergency and Fire Safety Preparedness (hsi.com)