Businesses are fragile entities, really. Its wellbeing is very dependent on a lot of important factors, both from the outside and the inside. External factors like the economy, current events and customer traffic are somewhat hard to control, but internal factors are deemed controllable—like the risk of employee accidents and injuries.
The restaurant industry, being one of the biggest employment sectors in the country with approximately 6.5 million workers each year, comprises one of the biggest groups of workers who have had occupational injuries in the U.S. Such injuries are damaging and pricey, not just for the employee in superior, inexpensive restaurant uniform, but also for the independent restaurant owner. Job illnesses and injuries are big contributors to absenteeism, employees’ work limitations, higher turnover, and most importantly, workers’ compensation costs.
Common restaurant occupational injuries are lacerations, burns, sprains, slips and falls.
Lacerations, punctures and cuts most commonly happen to hands and fingers, and are often caused by handling cutting equipments, knives and broken plates or glassware. Burn injuries at work, on the other hand, is one of the top causes of occupational injuries in the U.S., with 1/3 of those burns occurring in restaurants. To date, the reported cases of occupational burns are estimated to be 12,000 per year.
Another common restaurant injury is sprains and strains. The incorrect way of lifting things and doing repetitive motions often cause sprains and strains of the restaurant workers’ muscles and tendons, common in employees who do clean-up tasks—clearing tables, washing dishes, emptying garbage and mopping floors. These tasks frequently involve repetitive lifting, reaching and overreaching, and can lead to neck and back sprains. Slips and falls also contribute to the list. The most disabling restaurant injuries are results of tripping, slipping or falling, which costs restaurant chains a hefty share of their operational budget every year.
To avoid such injuries, restaurant operators must seriously recognize the importance of an effective workplace training program. According to research studies from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in every $1 that businesses spend on safety programs, they save as much as $6 in operational costs that are associated with employees’ injuries and fatalities.
Developing an effective training program might be difficult at first, but once it has been set-up, things will just run smoothly and effortlessly. Employers should assign one or more people to coordinate the training activities, develop and gather the necessary materials, and facilitate the process. Conducting regular trainings for employees in their superior restaurant uniform is one of the most effective ways to reduce workplace accidents and injuries. Regular trainings will allow employees to identify, evaluate and discuss with management various workplace hazards and to find ways to control or eliminate the problems. This will also help keep an open line of communication between management and staff.
For a detailed list of safety guidelines for common occupational hazards, restaurateurs can check-out the more user friendly Fact Sheet of the Connecticut Department of Health; and for a comprehensive day-by-day course out line for trainers, , we have found the UCLA-Berkeley’s Restaurant Safety Training Guide very useful.
The phrase may have degenerated to a mere cliché, but we do need to drive home the message: an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.