Restaurant Safety: The Back of Your House


Restaurant employees are often hired with very little formal restaurant safety training discussed during orientation, and in many cases, rarely thereafter. Usually management, for perfectly sound reasons, stresses the importance of customer service and ensuring the “front of the house” looks presentable at all times.

However, there are many restaurant safety concerns in any restaurant that are prevalent in order to prevent injuries and accidents from occurring. With some of the most expensive workers’ compensation claims at restaurants occurring in the “back of the house,” focusing merely on maximizing revenue in the “front of the house” can lead to a number of issues that could negatively affect employee health and safety including:

  • Blocked exits and fire extinguishers
  • Falling objects
  • Slip/trip hazards
  • Material handling
  • Damaged equipment
  • Electrical hazard
  • Cuts and burns

For restaurateurs that have high deductible insurance programs, the direct costs are reflected immediately when you pay for the loss. For large losses that surpass the deductible, the claim history will drive up pricing for the insurance policy at renewal, similar to how a guaranteed cost program works.

Even in a guaranteed cost program (where your insurance company pays first dollar); a poor loss history will cause your premiums to increase substantially and potentially be dropped by your insurance carrier. Indirect costs are often equal to the direct costs of the injury or higher. OSHA, for example, has a cost model that assumes indirect losses will be 125% of direct losses, for the average business. Typical indirect costs can include the hiring of new employees, training new/existing employees, reduced productivity and potential OSHA fines.

Formal restaurant policies and procedures are instrumental in reducing the risk of employee injuries.

MPS/Malachy April 2016 Top

The following list of best practices is recommended:

  • Implement pre-hire screenings for new hires.
  • Identify key focus areas for restaurant safety improvement and develop action plans to raise awareness and control hazards.
  • Ensure minimum safety standards for restaurant operations, i.e. conducting safety inspections, use of personal protective equipment, 2-person lift for heavy items, etc.
  • Ensure all employees are expected to perform their tasks in a safe manner and keep an “open door” policy for safety concerns.
  • Monitor and report on restaurant safety performance to all employees; i.e. tracking of open vs. closed safety action items.
  • Consider safety aspects for new equipment, new construction, and modifications such as floor replacement materials.

It is also strongly encouraged that restaurateurs conduct and document formal safety self-inspections by managers with employees. When management is involved at this level, there is a better understanding of existing safety hazards, and they have the authority to take action to address these hazards.

Safety education plays a large role in injury prevention. Training typically can be done in pre-shift meetings and supplemented with online safety training. The key is to engage managers and employees to improve safety in the restaurant with the same diligence of customer service, quality and cost.

Implementing these established practices will help to build a stronger restaurant safety culture in your organization, and reduce your total cost of risk through fewer injuries and lower insurance rates. Contact your broker to help you develop and implement a comprehensive risk management program for your restaurant.


Robert Fiorito serves as Vice President, HUB International Northeast., where he specializes in providing insurance brokerage services to the restaurant industry. As a 20-year veteran and former restaurateur himself, Bob has worked with a wide array of restaurant and food service businesses, ranging from fast-food chains to upscale, “white tablecloth” dining establishments. For more information, please visit For more information on HUB’s Employee Benefits practice, please visit