Restaurant employees know the industry's stance on safety all too well. Frantic peak times where patrons never seem to stop entering the establishment may often mean protocol is tossed to the wayside, but it's time that changes.
Fostering a culture of safety among your employees not only facilitates a healthier and more engaged workforce, but the financial returns can be significant as well.
Safety areas to examine
Kitchens and dining rooms can bring about a myriad of potential concerns. A joint study produced by the Labor Occupational Health Program and Young Workers United found that 1 in every 3 restaurant injuries are either sprains or musculoskeletal disorders. Other accidents waiting to happen include burns, cuts, slip and falls, as well as chemical exposures.
Fast-paced, time-sensitive work environments should have specific safety controls in place to reduce the chance of an injury - especially a preventable one. A safety manager should focus on the following three areas when evaluating his or her restaurant's safety culture:
- Safety threats: What are some pieces of equipment or daily tasks that cause instant injury if used or done incorrectly? This includes slippery floors or physical harm.
- Ergonomic hazards: Which repetitive tasks could cause strains over time? Heavy lifting and rote preparation work are a few to watch out for.
- Health dangers: Are you allowing employees to work with illnesses? Stress, high temperatures in the kitchen area and consistent loud noises could also be causes for concern.
Takeaway: Identify which area(s) of your business create the most risk of injury for employees. Consider using a health and safety management system to help aggregate internal injury data sets to compare with industry statistics, and also to perform a cost-benefit analysis.
Put a plan in action
After assessing the potential dangers that specifically affect your restaurant, it's time to revamp your safety culture. Ergonomic health and wellness is a major priority in the industry, but small changes in operation can make all the difference.
For example, if you routinely receive large boxes of food, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration suggests using a dolly or other equipment that will alleviate the weight employees have to carry. Similarly, make sure the staff is able to take short intermittent breaks to avoid standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time.
Safety threats and health dangers can be tricky to account for, simply because it's tough to predict when an injury will occur, but employing industry best practices and regular training will help identify a risky situation before it gets out of hand.
The average restaurant profit margin sits around 5.1 percent, according to Forbes. This is the capital owners will have to use to pay off workers' compensation costs. Include the fact that an injury results in lost productivity, and writing off employee safety doesn't seem like such a lucrative venture anymore. This doesn't include the legal consequences of neglecting unsafe work conditions.
Takeaway: Gather your employees and implement new safety standards immediately. Routine training allows the staff to take on more of the responsibility, and many health and safety management systems offer compliant educational materials that are updated regularly.