Kitchen Ergonomic Safety Tips for Restaurant Workers

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: Considering the ergonomics in a restaurant is key to helping prevent employee muscle strains. For out why proper ergonomics for kitchen workers can reduce injuries and time out of work.

Why is Proper Restaurant Ergonomics so Important for Kitchen Workers? 

In the restaurant industry, workers face a variety of factors that can impact their overall safety. Slips and falls, burns and scalds, and cuts and punctures are all common causes of restaurant employee injuries. In fact, according to our recent Restaurant Risk Report, which looked at five years of workers’ compensation claim data, it was discovered that the two leading causes of on premise injuries in commercial kitchens are slips and falls and muscle strain or injury from holding or carrying.

However, restaurant workers also face muscle strains due to ergonomic hazards in the kitchen. On average, strain injuries can account for $12 million in paid losses, causing increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and potential for higher insurance premiums. Repetitive movements, standing in one place for long periods of time, awkward postures or improperly designed work stations and equipment can all lead to a higher risk of injury among employees in the restaurant industry.

AmTrust Restaurant Risk Report

Common Types of Ergonomic Hazards in Kitchens

Standing, reaching and repetitive movements can strain the body and cause ergonomic injuries, such as muscle strains in the back and upper extremities, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and other musculoskeletal injuries. When not detected in the early stages, these types of injuries may not heal completely and lead to chronic, painful conditions. This is why early detection is so important to help reduce the potentially severe effects these injuries can cause to restaurant workers.

For this reason, it’s imperative that employers establish safe work practices and provide proper equipment to all kitchens staff and servers to help decrease the risks of these ergonomic injuries.

Preventing Ergonomic Hazards in Restaurants

Attention to proper restaurant ergonomics helps to create a safer work environment by allowing employees to work as efficiently as possible, matching the tools, physical settings and equipment to each worker’s specific needs. Ergonomic hazards for restaurant workers also include the health and safety concerns involved with having scheduled shifts that tend to be longer than a normal workday.

Here are a few things employers should keep in mind when it comes to restaurant ergonomics that help improve the safety of their workers:

Invest in ergonomic, anti-fatigue mats and step stools

Restaurant staff often spend extended periods of time standing in one place which can lead to issues like general muscle and lower back pain, sore feet, stiff neck and shoulders and other health problems. Even if workers are required to wear quality shoes with good arch support, standing can cause discomfort after a long day. Placing anti-fatigue mats at standing work stations can help reduce some of that discomfort. However, it’s important to make sure these mats are also anti-slip to help eliminate the risk of slips and falls. Additionally, step stools or footrests allow workers to shift body weight from both legs to one or the other to help relieve some pressure.

Allow for breaks from repetitive movements

Food preparation often involves a lot of chopping, slicing, stirring and other repetitive movements of the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and necks of employees. While these motions are considered harmless in everyday life, the continual repetition in a forceful and quick manner with little recovery time between movements can make them an ergonomic hazard in commercial kitchens. Make sure employees are allowed to take frequent breaks from repetitive tasks, and that these tasks are rotated among staff members to help avoid injury.

Encourage employees to avoid awkward positions

The human body is most comfortable when it’s in a neutral position, but restaurant workers often find themselves engaged in tasks that lead them to hunch over a work station in an awkward posture. Make sure the height of the work surface is appropriate to both the employee’s height and the task involved. For instance, for forceful chores like chopping ingredients, the workstation should be at waist level, while for more detailed tasks like preparing pastries the workstation should be at elbow height.

Provide properly-designed tools and equipment to decrease employee exertion

When employees are given tools and equipment that can help decrease some of the force needed to complete their daily duties, it relieves some of the strain on the muscles they’re regularly using. Knives should be kept sharp, and utensils should have good, padded handles with sufficient grip.

Loss Control from AmTrust Financial

Whether your restaurant requires safety and loss control consultation, technical loss analysis, training resources and more, AmTrust’s Loss Control Department can give you the individual attention you deserve, identifying specific hazards and offering solutions that fit your operation. We are dedicated to providing the right recommendations and resources necessary to create the most effective loss prevention program for your specific needs. Additionally, we offer coverage to a variety of restaurant types, from fine dining establishments to mobile food vendors. Please contact us today to learn more.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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