Protecting Food Service Workers From On-the-Job Injuries

When we dine in nice restaurants or grab take-out from a fast food place, we probably don’t give a second thought to the safety of the cooks, servers, bus boys, kitchen staff, and cashiers who take care of us. While many people are aware of the dangers construction workers or assembly line workers face, they’re not aware that food service employees work under extremely hazardous conditions and face serious injuries every day.

Just How Dangerous Is the Food Industry?

According to a study conducted by Emory University and reported on the National Safety Council’s Safety and Health website, workers in the food industry are 60 percent more likely to suffer an occupational illness or injury. The study looked at all aspects of the food industry, from farm to table, and found the risk of occupational death was 9.5 times higher among food workers than workers in other industries.

Much of the riskiest work takes place in the farming phase of food production, but workers’ compensation isn’t available to most farm workers in Kansas and Missouri. However, workers in the food service category of the industry are eligible for workers’ comp, and they also face serious on-the-job injuries.

The Most Common Injuries for Restaurant Workers

If you’ve ever cut or burned yourself while preparing the family dinner, you know kitchens can be dangerous places. Imagine the odds of injury when you’re in a rushed commercial kitchen for over 40 hours a week.

Industry insiders list the four most common injuries faced by restaurant workers as the following:

  1. Lacerations and punctures. Cuts and pokes from knives, slicers, and broken glass are a common injury suffered by kitchen workers, servers, and busboys.
  2. Burns. As many as one-third of occupational burns occur in restaurants, totaling about 12,000 reported cases per year, and many more go unreported. Boiling water, hot stoves and ovens, open fryers, and plate warmers result in serious burns to cooks and servers.
  3. Sprains and strains. Restaurant work is grueling, physical labor. All restaurant staff members risk repetitive-use injuries, back injuries from improper lifting, and injuries from slipping and/or falling on slippery surfaces throughout the restaurant.
  4. Eye injuries. Splashes from grease or sanitizing chemicals frequently used in food service environments can result in eye injuries. Without immediate treatment, permanent vision loss may occur.

Employee injuries cost employers in many ways—from loss of manpower to insurance costs due to workers’ compensation claims. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that for every $1 restaurant owners spend on safety, they save around $5 from costs associated with injury and death.

Implementing the following safety protocols protects workers and saves employers money in the long run:

  • Install an onsite first-aid cabinet. Place the cabinet in an identifiable location so that all employees can easily access it if an accident occurs. Stock and restock the cabinet with a wide selection of supplies to treat common food service injuries.
  • Train and educate employees on proper use of the first-aid items and protocols for handling emergency situations.
  • Supplement first aid training with other safety training, such as how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED), fire-prevention programs, and handling hazardous material.

Restaurant owners and managers are smart and financially responsible to create safe working environments. They’re also required by law to do so. When a food service worker is injured, he or she is entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of medical care and lost wages, up to a certain point. The worker is eligible regardless of fault. For example, if a chef suffers a serious cut by his knife, it doesn’t matter that he caused the injury. His losses will still be covered by Missouri or Kansas workers’ compensation.

Have You Been Injured On The Job?

If you’ve been hurt at work on the job in Kansas City, you need to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816-471-5111 to schedule your free consultation.