By Carola Hicks
Though patrons associate them with comfort and enjoyment, restaurants are worksites, with real hazards and accidents that account for about 6.3 per cent of all time-loss claims. A time-loss claim is a claim for time lost due to an injury that results in a short-term disability, a long-term disability, or a fatality. (We tend not to associate restaurants with workplace fatalities). Since most injuries are preventable, injury rates are still higher than they should be.
Employers must remember that costs include hiring replacement workers, overtime, and retraining. The pain, suffering, and disability experienced by workers as a result of workplace accidents are of even greater importance than the financial costs.
Four most common types of accidents in the restaurant industry:
Being struck by an object – 24 per cent
These are accidents where the worker is injured by a moving object such as equipment and tools. Being struck by an object or equipment causes 24 per cent of the restaurant industry’s accepted time-loss claims. Accidents with a knife account for more than 60 percent of these struck-by accidents.
Occupations with the most struck-by accidents are:
- Chefs and cooks – 46 per cent
- Kitchen helpers or bus persons – 33 per cent
Falls on the same level – 18 per cent
Falls on the same level account for 18 per cent of all time-loss claims. Seventy per cent are caused by slippery surfaces, and 5 per cent are due to tripping or rough surfaces. Women have claims for falls on the same level two and a half times more often than men. Example of an accident: A kitchen helper slips on some grease while putting French fries into a deep fryer. His right hand goes into the fryer, resulting in a third-degree burn.
Occupations with the most falls on the same level are:
- Kitchen helpers or bus persons – 35 per cent
- Wait staff – 27 per cent
- Chefs and cooks – 22 per cent
Burns and scalds – 16 per cent
Sixteen percent of all accidents in restaurants are burns and scalds. Contact with food products (for example, soup, tea, sauces) account for 39 per cent of these burns and scalds, and 35 per cent are the result of contact with fat, grease, or oil.
Occupations with the most burns are:
- Chefs and cooks – 43 per cent
- Kitchen helpers or bus persons – 32 per cent
- Wait staff – 13 per cent
Chemical burns, such as those that janitorial workers could experience when handling chemical cleaning products, are not included in this category. Chemical burns are included in statistics on toxic exposures.
Overexertion – 14 per cent
These are injuries resulting from the application of force to an object or person such as lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying. Overexertion contributes to 14 per cent of all time-loss claims in the restaurant industry. Of these, 82 per cent are due to manual handling of containers, such as boxes and cartons. Example of an accident: While working in a cooler, a cook strains her back when she bends over to lift a pail of fruit salad weighing about 15 kg (32 lb).
Occupations with the most overexertion accidents are:
- Chefs and cooks – 32 per cent
- Kitchen helpers or bus persons – 31 per cent
- Wait staff – 15 per cent
Restaurants could prevent many workplace injuries by paying the same kind of attention to employee health and safety as they do to customer satisfaction.
About the author
Carola Hicks is CEO of Workplace Safety Group, providing leading-edge, online and in-class health and safety consultation and training programs to associations and specialty industries across Canada. Carola can be reached at [email protected].