These simple steps can help restaurants protect their workers and their bottom lines.

Amid a growing industry-wide labor crisis, ensuring workers are safe during these unusual times is key to a full-service restaurant’s success.

“Safety is always important, 24/7 365 days a year, there’s no question about that,” says Bob Higgins, director of national accounts at Restaurant Technologies, Inc., “but staffing is so tight these days, restaurants cannot afford to have somebody out injured. Any kind of safety issue needs to be mitigated so employees can come to work every day.”

According to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were an estimated 91,800 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in full-service restaurants in 2018, or 2.7 injuries for every 100 full-time equivalent workers. Of those 24,980 involved days away from work.

Yet time away from work isn’t the only safety concern—employees don’t want to work in an environment that makes them feel unsafe. If a restaurant suffers from several safety incidents in a short period of time, it could contribute to employee turnover. Meanwhile, guests have also begun paying more attention than ever to how safe restaurants are for both diners and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All of this makes it more crucial than ever for restaurants to work to prevent safety incidents.

The most common injuries for restaurant employees, Higgins says, are slips, trips, and falls; sprains, strains, and soft-tissue injuries; and burns and scalds. Cooking oil-related injuries are particularly prevalent and make up 60 percent of all workers’ compensation incidents in restaurants.

Yet despite the frequency of these incidents, restaurants can lower the risks with the right back-of-house precautions. Higgins recommends restaurants take the following steps.

  1. Keep floors grease free

Keeping floors clean and free of oil will prevent most trips, slips, and falls. While cleaning floors can help, using an oil management system can prevent oil from splashing onto or spilling onto the floors in the first place to create a much safer place to work.

“When you have a system like Restaurant Technologies’ that prevents oil from hitting the ground, you are mitigating that risk,” Higgins says. “You’re eliminating one more factor that creates an unsafe environment for employees.”

  1. Don’t move oil before it cools

When oil in fryers needs to be moved, sometimes employees don’t wait long enough for it to cool to the proper temperature. Transferring hot oil can lead to burns from oil splashing onto employees. However, installing a closed-loop oil management system will prevent those types of injuries by transferring oil from storage tanks to fryers to waste tanks at the flip of a switch rather than requiring employees to move it manually, Higgins says.

  1. Reduce lifting

When employees lift large boxes filled with oil, the chance of injury from sprains and strains increases. Using an oil management system can eliminate the need for employees to lift boxes of oil to fill fryers or to put in storage.

Keeping employees safe should be top of mind for every restaurant, Higgins notes.

“I still say, ‘safety takes no vacation’,” he says. “I think restaurants need to have a constant mentality of mitigating risk, and making sure that they’re providing the safest work environment for their employees. To do that, they need to always be thinking about ways they can improve the safety of their working environment.”

To learn more about how to keep employees safe, download RTI’s eBook, Kitchen Safety 101.

By Liz Carey

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