Even if your restaurant has a safety program in place and makes every effort to prevent the most common employee injuries, sometimes accidents still happen. The pressure of the weekend dinner rush can cause even the best-trained kitchen staff to cut corners, or potentially, their fingertips. A crowded and bustling dining room can cause even the most experienced server to bump into a coworker while carrying a hot tray. These are just two potential scenarios of many that can potentially result in employee injury.
Injuries can occur at any time in a restaurant. How you and your staff respond to an injured employee could make all the difference. Whether a server burns his hand when delivering a hot beverage or a sous chef slices her finger while preparing food, it is crucial that restaurant managers know how to respond to injuries—for both the employee’s well-being, as well as the restaurant’s operational success. Worker injuries don’t only impact the employee and his or her family; such incidents can also negatively impact staff morale and your business’s bottom line.
To handle a work-related injury or illness properly, restaurant business leaders should take the following steps:
1. Care for the Employee
Promptly getting appropriate medical treatment for an injured employee is the highest priority. As soon as the incident occurs, evaluate the need for medical assistance. If the injury is severe and the person’s life is in danger, dial 9-1-1 immediately. In non-emergency situations, the injured employee should be transported to a medical care facility. Managers may consult the medical provider designated by the business’s worker’s compensation carrier or seek help at a facility close to the scene of the accident.
Some worker’s compensation insurance carriers provide policyholders with 24/7 access to an injured employee hotline staffed by registered nurses who are specially trained to provide medical guidance over the phone for work-related injuries or illnesses.
2. Survey and Secure the Scene
Once the employee has received proper medical attention, the accident scene must be secured as quickly as possible. In more severe cases, you may need to use barriers, such as safety cones or tape, to cordon off the area so a formal investigation can take place by local law enforcement or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This is not only for investigative purposes, but also to avoid secondary accidents. A slippery floor in one area of the kitchen could cause additional injuries if access to that area is not limited.
Managers should also secure and save equipment or materials that were involved in the accident in case they are needed during a subsequent investigation.
3. Collect the Facts
After the scene has been secured, managers should gather details and facts about the incident to include in reports. You’ll need the contact information of who was injured, details on what happened, where it happened, and why it happened, as well as the medical treatment that was provided—whether it was a bandage for a cut or a trip to the emergency room for stitches. You’ll also need to collect contact information from anyone who witnessed the incident. OSHA emphasizes that the investigation processshould be centered on “identifying root causes, not establishing fault.”
4. Complete the Paperwork
An incident report with the information you collected should be completed while the details are still fresh in your mind. Any claims should be filed with your workers’ compensation insurance carrier within 24 hours of the incident. Some insurance carriers may allow you to report claims via phone, their website, or even email.
Under the OSHA recordkeeping regulation, employers are required to prepare and maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses using the OSHA form 300. Additionally, all employers are required to notify OSHA when an employee undergoes a work-related hospitalization.
Check with your carrier or insurance agent for available resources as some offer programs to help guide their clients in these situations.
5. Develop an Appropriate Return-to-Work Program
Many injures, including those considered to be minor, such as sprains and strains, can result in the injured employee missing time from work. Depending on the severity of the injury, an employee may be off the job for weeks or months. Generally, the longer workers are away from work due to an injury, the more difficult it can be for them to return.
Implementing an effective return-to-work program can help keep workers off of long-term disability and can potentially lower related costs to you as an employer.
Transitional or modified jobs can be used as part of a return-to-work program and don’t necessarily need to be in the same role or department. These transitional jobs are meant to be flexible and are designed to accommodate employees who are medically cleared to work but unable to perform their previous job duties. For instance, a barback who can no longer lift heavy cases may be transitioned to a clerical position, such as managing inventory or training new employees.
6. Reinforce Your Commitment to Safety
An on-the-job injury or illness can be frightening and disorienting to both the injured employee and the employer. By emphasizing your commitment to safety and developing a restaurant safety program, managers and employees will be in a better position to navigate a work-related injury or illness should one occur.
As an employer, you are responsible for the safety of your employees. Having a plan and knowing what to do in the event an employee becomes injured or ill as a result of their job is critical to their well-being and the success of your business. To learn more about how to prepare for and react to work-related injuries or illnesses specific to your business, talk to your insurance agent or carrier.