Restaurant Safety Tips and Best Practices

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: Commercial kitchens can pose an array of risks for restaurant workers that can lead to accidents, injuries, illnesses and even fatalities. We provide restaurant safety tips every employer should implement to help reduce the hazards their employees face daily.

Restaurant Safety Risks

Working in a restaurant can be dangerous. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2021, 128 restaurant employees were fatally injured in food service establishments and drinking places. Additionally, there were over 2,600 injuries and illnesses reported in the industry that year. Even just one injury in a small restaurant can increase workers' compensation premiums or worse - result in the loss of a valuable employee. 

Increasing Workplace Safety in Restaurants: Proactive Safety Tips

Restaurants present a multi-faceted hazard and injury risk; for employees, there is the possibility of slip and fall incidents, cuts from food preparation, burns from deep fryers or ovens, or injuries from lifting boxes of food and supplies. For restaurant owners, there are additional risks to your commercial property, such as fire hazards. For customers, risks could involve issues like slip and fall incidents in a poorly-maintained parking lot, a wet floor or a sudden elevation change.

By following safety and loss control best practices, however, your restaurant can help avoid these incidents. Below are some safety tips and best practices to keep in mind for your restaurant.

Slip and Fall Protection

Fall-to-surface events, whether on the same level or from one level to another, are among the foremost causes of injury in any work environment, and they are a leading problem for restaurants. Some of the top slip and fall risks include:
  • Spills on floors
  • Outdoor slipping hazards such as ice and snow tracked indoors
  • Loose mats or rugs
  • Poor visibility caused by product obstruction or poor lighting
  • Ice build-up and condensation on floors of walk-in freezers and coolers
  • Walking surface disrepair, including uneven floor heights, clutter, cords or other obstacles
  • Parking hazards from potholes to dim lighting
To help avoid slip and fall injuries, here are a few tips to consider:
  • Eliminate any exposed metal edges on stair treads, especially stairs susceptible to grease accumulation
  • Ensure slip-resistant mats with beveled edges are placed in wet areas
  • Designate separate, color-coded floor mops for the front and heart of the restaurant
  • Train employees to store all floor mats vertically and tightly rolled when not in use
  • Train employees to immediately clean up spills or place a wet floor sign over the area if the spill cannot be immediately cleaned; any debris should be cleaned up immediately
  • Proper cleaning-chemical selection is critical
  • Train employees who mop floors on proper soap-to-water ratios and especially on the importance of using the soap dispensers correctly
  • Degreasers should be used for areas in and close to culinary production areas
  • Set a mandatory slip-resistant shoe policy and enforce it without exception

Burn Prevention

Hot surfaces, deep fryers and hot grease can lead to severe burns. Formal safety procedures should be implemented to address fire and heat in commercial kitchens, and all employees should understand them. Employers should:
  • Provide access to proper hot food handling protection: hand towels, burn mitts, etc.
  • Train all employees, including new hires, in proper techniques when working with or near hot equipment, liquids and steam
  • Provide access to first-aid training and materials, including a burn kit that is properly stocked at all times
  • Require employees to wear slip-resistant, closed-toe shoes that they can easily get their feet out of while working in the kitchen in the event of a hot liquid spill
  • Make sure all employees know how to handle and extinguish grease fires

Preventing Cuts and Lacerations

restaurant worker safety tips knife safety
Even though most restaurant workers know their way around a kitchen, hand tool and cut-related injuries are a risk for any restaurant employee. For example, slicing and baking machines without proper guards in place can lead to cuts, amputation and even death. Cuts from broken dishes and glasses can also occur. To help avoid these injuries, remember to:
  • Use designated buckets to dispose of broken glass, bottles and plates – do not use regular trash
  • Debris in buckets should be placed in a cardboard box and taped shut before being taken to the dumpster
  • Make cut gloves available for staff that uses knives or slicing equipment to prepare food
  • The use of cut-resistant gloves should be mandatory and enforced
  • Train employees in best knife practices: which knife to use, how to use it and proper maintenance/storage
  • Store plastic wrap below eye level in all kitchens
  • Beware of cuts while hand washing slicer blades and knives in a sink topped with suds, as reaching in sinks with hands unprotected can result in running a hand right into the sharp edges
  • Hand wash knives separately

Ergonomic Hazards and Strains

Moving heavy boxes, retrieving stock, emptying containers and even cashiering are common causes of restaurant worker injuries. Muscle strains from bending, lifting, performing repetitive motions and standing in one spot for extended time periods can lead to long-term disability when proper ergonomics are not implemented.

Keep workers safe from strains by:
  • Providing lifting aides such as dollies, carts or another employee when possible
  • Training employees in proper lift techniques, encouraging them to ask for help when lifting heavy or awkward objects; items over 50 pounds require a two-person lift
  • In coolers, freezers and storage racks, ensuring that heavier products (over 35 pounds) are stored at mid-body heights
  • Making necessary improvements to workstations, provide carts, and limit the weight of materials employees can lift by themselves to reduce strain risks

Hazardous Materials and Chemical Exposure

Exposure to cleaning, disinfecting and maintenance chemicals can cause respiratory problems, blindness, internal organ damage, and irritate the skin and eyes. A written Hazard Communication program that includes proper use of soaps, detergents, degreasers, sanitizers, floor cleanings, and more should be in place and actively used.
  • Read and understand the Safety Data Sheet for each product, which details instructions for proper handling and mixing of materials
  • Train employees to understand the dangers of chemicals, the correct use of cleaning supplies, and how to respond to an emergency such as a spill
  • Provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when called for
  • Store chemicals in designated storage areas below eye level

Robust Loss Control Services from AmTrust Financial

The Loss Control Department at AmTrust knows that access to the right safety resources and commercial property safeguards can help your restaurant take a proactive approach to reducing workplace injuries and improving employee safety. For more information about our loss control services, please contact us today.

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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