The upcoming holiday season is expected to bring healthier restaurant sales due to rising disposable personal incomes and high U.S. consumer confidence. Many restaurant owners and managers may need to recruit additional employees to keep up with the anticipated demand. However, competition for talent is expected to be tight, given the current shallow candidate pool.
According to a recent survey of small business employees conducted by EMPLOYERS, business owners may be underselling an important factor that could give them a recruiting edge: a safe workplace. While small business employees still ranked pay and commute as their number one and two priorities, a safe workplace is also among the top criteria employees consider when evaluating a new job offer.
Most small businesses understand the importance of prioritizing workplace safety to prevent workers from getting sick or hurt on the job. But the survey revealed that one out of 10 small business employees do not believe their employers make workplace safety a high priority.
Whether onboarding new full-time employees or adding seasonal staff, it is important to communicate a commitment to workplace safety. Here are five steps restaurant owners and managers can take to foster a safer workplace.
1. Conduct Regular Safety Training
The survey revealed that 17 percent of small business employees have never received workplace safety training. Management should provide ongoing training to all employees, whether they are with the restaurant for just the season or year-round. Consider implementing short weekly safety sessions to review important procedures for specific jobs. For instance, one session for kitchen workers could be a refresher on how to handle slicing equipment and kitchen knives properly, emphasizing the importance of cutting away from the body. Make sure to explain to employees why these procedures matter, in addition to what the expected safety protocols are.
2. Display OSHA Signage Properly
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, requires all workplaces to post signage that informs workers of their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Yet, the survey found that 40 percent of small business employees are not sure if their employer has posted required OSHA signage, or where it is located. Take the time to review the OSHA’s guidelines on what types of signs should be posted and where they need to be located to comply with the organization’s rules and regulations.
3. Identify Hazards
Conduct regular risk assessments of the restaurant, including the dining areas, kitchen, and storage rooms. Look for potential hazards and address them before someone gets hurt at work. For instance, spend the first five minutes of the day confirming all caps are secured on chemical bottles and confirming no electrical cords are damaged or worn.
4. Prioritize Safety from the Top Down
Management should clearly communicate safety guidelines and goals to the entire staff, including seasonal employees. Managers should also model the safety behavior they expect from staff and not cut corners.
5. Empower Employees
Most importantly, employees at all levels need to be empowered to take ownership of their own safety and the safety of their co-workers. Employees should be encouraged to share any safety concerns with management. Unfortunately, the survey found that only half (52 percent) of small business employees would feel comfortable addressing workplace safety concerns with management. To make sure your team feels comfortable presenting their concerns, consider implementing an open-door policy when it comes to safety. Seek input from all staff, especially front-line workers who may witness safety hazards that back-of-house employees or management might miss.
The task of developing a safe work environment should never be considered “done.” Rather, restaurant owners and managers should regularly check on the safety of their work environment and continue to embrace a culture of safety. Cultivating a safe workplace will not only keep employees safe, but can also play a role in attracting and retaining seasonal and full-time staff.
David Quezada is vice president of loss control for EMPLOYERS, America’s small business insurance specialist, which offers workers’ compensation insurance and services through Employers Insurance Company of Nevada, Employers Compensation Insurance Company, Employers Preferred Insurance Company, and Employers Assurance Company. Not all insurers do business in all jurisdictions. EMPLOYERS and America’s small business insurance specialist are registered trademarks of Employers Insurance Company of Nevada.