Full-service restaurants account for more workplace injuries than limited-service operations.

Successful restaurateurs recognize they can thrive when they focus their energies on the activities they do best. For everything else, they rely on other specialists—whether it’s an experienced beverage manager for bar operations or a roofing contractor to fix that troublesome leak in the corner of the kitchen.

When all the members of a restaurant team concentrate on their strengths, the organization is positioned to deliver outstanding value to customers and profitable operations to its owners.

Among the important specialists on the team of any restaurant is an agent who specializes in workers’ compensation coverage, the insurance that protects the safety and wellbeing of employees as well as the financial assets of the owners.

The Importance of Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance is so important, in fact, that 49 states require restaurants and other businesses to purchase coverage. Texas is the exception, although restaurant owners in the Lone Star State almost universally recognize the wisdom of workers’ compensation coverage, even if it isn’t required.

Coverage protects workers and employers against the costs of work-related injuries common in the fast-paced restaurant industry. Recent figures from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration report that full-service restaurants across the nation experienced 32,400 workplace injuries during 2017, including 26,000 that required workers to take one or more days away from work. Another 6,400 injuries in full-service restaurants required restrictions to job duties until the worker recovered. In fact, full-service restaurants accounted for more workplace injuries than limited-service foodservice operations.

Commonly Reported Injuries

These are the most common types of worker injuries reported in restaurants:

  • Cuts from knives and other kitchen equipment.
  • Burns from hot liquids, fryers, stoves, ovens, or chemicals.
  • Slips on wet or greasy floors.
  • Strains from lifting or carrying heavy objects.
  • Vehicle accidents during catering or delivery.

How a Workers’ Comp Agent Can Help

Without workers’ compensation coverage, owners would face the out-of-pocket costs of medical examinations and treatment for injured workers. In particularly serious cases, restaurant owners might face ruinous damages to pay for lost wages or compensation to a family of a worker who lost their life on the job. Having a policy in place ensures the owner and the employees are protected. 

While the basic philosophy of workers’ compensation is similar from one state to another, the details vary widely between jurisdictions, and that’s where an agent can lend a helping hand. Of course, across the board, one thing never changes, and that’s when an injury or occupational disease should be reported: immediately. But what about the doctor that the injured worker should see? In some states, the employer or carrier chooses. In others, the injured worker can choose, and in some states, there can be a combination of both. And where is the restaurant owner required to place that poster that enables employees to read about coverage for their injuries? Many questions like these arise, and agents are there to answer them.

Restaurant owners want to focus on customer service and profitable operations. They don’t want to spend their days navigating the complexities of state workers’ compensation laws. That’s why successful restaurateurs rely on an agent who specializes in workers’ compensation to deliver the coverage they need when they need it most.

Because the cost of workers’ compensation is generally specified as a percentage of payroll, a specialized workers’ compensation agent takes time to understand the specific operations of a restaurant. With that understanding, the agent can help the restaurant owner find a carrier and policy that are best.

An agent recognizes, too, that workers’ compensation needs change over time. As restaurants thrive, open new locations, or expand into new states, their workers’ compensation programs will transition as well. Workers’ compensation agents help restaurateurs position themselves to grow smoothly.

A knowledgeable agent can also act as an advocate on behalf of a restaurant owner, making sure the carrier’s decisions are based on good information that’s well-presented. In addition, they can help with employee classifications, act as a liaison between the employer and the insurance carrier, help the restaurant owner prepare for an audit, and help them understand the language in their policy.

A smart restaurateur will recognize that the basic premium for workers’ compensation coverage doesn’t provide the full picture about its cost. Good carriers provide loss prevention services that keep employees safe and reduce the injuries that lead to short staffing. Because premium costs reflect loss experience (employers with more injury claims pay higher premiums), a good loss prevention program can save substantial money over the long term.

Some of the loss control services workers’ compensation carriers provide include the following:

Analysis of restaurant operations to determine problem areas. To reduce knife injuries, for instance, a loss control specialist might suggest a regular sharpening schedule or use of cut-resistant gloves on the hand not using the knife.

Developing management and employee education programs to reinforce good health and safety practices. Owners and managers review their responsibility to create a positive culture of safety, one that incorporates safety training whenever employees are learning a job. Employees, meanwhile, learn safe operation of equipment and ways to prevent injuries to themselves and others.

Help with regular maintenance programs to reduce risks. For example, regular degreasing programs, particularly in front of grills and fryers, have been shown to reduce the dangers of a slip or fall injury.

Workers’ compensation agents and the carriers they represent do whatever they can to reduce hassles for the restaurants they serve. Agents cut through red tape, take time to understand state laws, and familiarize themselves with the details of workers’ compensation coverage on the market. Carriers, meanwhile, increasingly provide efficient, online tools that help restaurant owners stay focused on what they do best.

Because it’s both a legal requirement and a smart investment in the safety of employees, workers’ compensation is too important for restaurant owners to navigate on their own. Wise restaurant owners turn to professional agents for this specialized service. And once they’ve made this easy call, restaurateurs return to the work that brought them into the business in the first place—the pleasure of creating satisfied customers.

Wayne Hilston is currently the Vice President of Sales for the Specialty Programs and Association Region with the EMPLOYERS Insurance Group. Wayne has over 35 years of experience in the Commercial Insurance industry in a variety of Sales Underwriting leadership roles.  Over the last 20 years, he has worked to develop program offerings at both the national and regional level with a primary focus on serving the Restaurant and Hospitality industry.

Expert Takes, Feature, Labor & Employees