When Utica residents think of health and safety in the context of a restaurant, they probably think about the safety of the food patrons are eating; whether it's properly cooked, whether it was handled by clean hands or prepared in a sanitary, hygienic kitchen. But the health and safety of restaurant workers themselves is all too often overlooked. We'll look this week at workers' injuries in restaurants, as a follow-up to our last post which discussed burns and other injuries suffered by workers at McDonald's chains.
Burns are a common cause of injury among restaurant workers who work around deep fryers, lowering food into them or cleaning them. While some might suffer burn injuries and chalk them up to the nature of the workplace -- perhaps treating them with cold water or some over-the-counter ointment -- there are actually a number of measures restaurants can take to protect workers from burn injuries.
One step could be to remove the hazard by equipping fryers with automatic-dump grease pans; this way, workers do not have to manually dump them for cleaning. Another step would be to improve training on best practices like shaking any ice crystals off of frozen food to minimize the splatter when it goes into the fryer. And of course, providing protective equipment and clothing like heat and grease-resistant aprons and gloves should be common sense for any workers who have to use fryers.
The general principals behind these steps -- remove the hazard, improve work practices and provide protection -- can be applied to any number of other hazards in a restaurant setting. Unfortunately, in a busy restaurant environment, it's all too easy for an employer to overlook common hazards and even trivialize the injuries workers suffer.
This is one reason why workers' compensation and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration exist to support employees injured on the job. We'll look more at how OSHA will handle restaurant safety concerns in a follow-up post.
Source: OSHA.gov, "A Menu for Protecting the Health and Safety of Restaurant Workers," accessed on March 27, 2015