Restaurant workers face a variety of potential risks for common injuries that lead to lost time in the workplace and costly workers’ compensation (WC) claims for the employer.
In an industry where working with knives or other sharp objects and/or machinery plays a major role in food preparation, it’s no surprise that cuts, punctures and scrapes make up a third of restaurant claims reported. However, while these items may cause the most reported claims, a recent study revealed that slips, trips and falls resulted in 4.5 times more in paid losses and required more than twice as many days for employees to return to work1.
For restaurateurs that have high deductible insurance programs, the direct costs are reflected immediately when they pay for the loss. In addition, a poor loss history will cause premiums to increase substantially and increase the risk of being dropped by the insurance carrier. In addition to WC claims, business owners can be responsible for accidents involving patrons, which occur anywhere in their establishment which are under their control, including parking lots. For example, the failure to clearly mark or address situations such as uneven pavement can lead to slip and fall accidents with liability falling on the restaurant for failing to take proper measures.
So what can restaurant owners and managers do to mitigate risks? They must assess any potential risks proactively, and work with employees on educating them about safe practices. Preventing hazards and ingraining safety best practices into a workplace’s culture can help prevent costly WC claims and lead to substantial long-term cost savings.
Slips, trips and falls may be inevitable hazards in a public place like a restaurant. But they can be managed if you have a consistent program in place to monitor and control the most likely sources of problems. Whether a fall is caused by spillage of ice, water or other liquids or outside in the parking lot while a customer is getting out of their vehicle, the following are a few ways businesses can protect their employees, patrons and business associates from this workplace injury:
• Maintain your physical worksite and common areas: Make sure your worksites are maintained in a clean and orderly fashion, including preventive maintenance of flooring materials. Among common hazards are mats and carpeting that are bunched or worn – and should be checked and replaced routinely. Tile floors and non-carpeted stairs can be dangerous when water is tracked in or liquid spilled; slip resistant surfaces can head off issues. Doors should allow visibility to the other side, and the right lighting will also minimize accidents – like side lights on doors and indirect lighting by elevators. Proper maintenance and hazard signage and a proactive approach can go a long way.
• Exterior locations: This one is important since restaurants have people coming in and out frequently throughout the day. A cracked sidewalk or curb might not seem like much, but can pose a trip hazard for someone who’s distracted. Similarly, it’s important to have outdoor ramps to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, but they must be moderately angled for safety and carefully maintained during periods of rain, snow and ice. Exterior doors should be well lit, and be covered with slip-resistant mats placed inside and outside that are regularly replaced to guard against slick floors.
• Establish a footwear program for staff: Designate safety footwear for your wait-staff and other employees. Establishing an official program where employers share in the cost of the footwear or purchase them for employees will ensure compliance.
Return to Work
On average, an injured employee requires 32.7 days to return to work from a slip or fall and employees who injured multiple body parts or who strained their wrists or hands were most likely to miss the most time from work. 2 (Due to this, findings show that coffee shops yield the highest lost time by 45% compared to all other restaurant types, since wrist injuries are the biggest risk for coffee shop workers. 3) Furthering the issue, soft costs of training and salary for new or temporary employees can be as much as double to triple the cost of the original workers’ compensation claim.
When you consider the costs for temporary and new hires, companies who are serious about controlling WC costs will have a formal return to work (RTW) program tailored to their specific business culture and risks. This program starts by designating an employee, such as an HR professional, who is responsible for championing claims. This designated employee will oversee the program, which should include the following elements: a company mission statement, a flow of action to be taken from injury to return to work, an emergency plan, a communication plan and a transitional employment plan.
Implementing established practices will help to build a stronger culture of safety in your restaurant, and reduce your total cost of risk through fewer injuries and lower insurance rates. Work with an experienced insurance broker to help you develop and implement a comprehensive risk management program for your restaurant.