July 2006 Edition
Kitchen Safety is a Slippery Topic

On May 24, 2006, a restaurant in Timmins, ON was fined $50,000 for two violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act due to a slippery floor.  According to reports, while mopping the kitchen floor, the employee received a food order and on his way to the cooler, slipped.  While falling, his left arm plunged into the deep fryer, resulting in second and third degree burns to his hand, arm and back.


Kitchen accidents like this one happen quickly and unexpectedly…and they could happen in your restaurant if you’re not prepared.  This case went to trial and the restaurant was convicted of failing to ensure the floor was kept clear of a hazard, as well as failing to provide adequate information and supervision regarding deep fryers.


According to Ontario statistics, in 2004 there were 5,656 workplace related injuries and illnesses that resulted in lost workdays in the restaurant and hospitality industry.  And lost days mean lost money, lost time and lost productivity.


Prevention is the Key


According to a report from the Workers Compensation Board, 42% of all restaurant injuries are caused by either slipping/tripping or by being struck by an object such as a knife,   cooking appliance or door.  Burns and scalds were the next common injury, resulting in 16% of accidents.  Almost 74% of these were caused by fat or oil, or other hot food products such as soup. 

The good news is, many accidents can be prevented.  “One inexpensive way employers can reduce the number of back, neck and shoulder injuries is by re-organizing the storage room,” says Sandro Perruzza, Director of Sales at the Ontario Service Safety Alliance (OSSA).  “By placing the larger, heavier and most used items on the middle shelves, workers won’t have to over-extend themselves to get to them.”

Another major cause of back and shoulder injuries is caused by buying in bulk.  “Owners try to save a few dollars by ordering supplies in large containers, but are risking very costly muscle-related injuries,” says Perruzza. 

Studies show that the indirect costs related to a workplace injury is 10-25 times the actual compensation costs of the injury.  “A back injury costing $3000 in compensation cost, actually winds up costing a company about $30,000 in indirect costs such as property damage, retraining, fines and increased insurance premiums,” says Perruzza.  “If a company has a 10% profit margin, they will need to generate $300,000 in revenue to compensate for that injury.”

According to Perruzza, the best prevention is to take the time to teach employees how to lift and carry things properly.  Besides the force needed to lift or carry an item, the second most common risk factor is improper posture.  This can cause increased pressure on certain muscle groups, causing them to fail and resulting in an injury.

The experts at OSSA also recommend that employers ensure all workers are wearing non-slip shoes as this is the most effective way to prevent slips, falls and trips.  “Running shoes are simply not good enough,” says Perruzza.  “A specially designed shoe with a non-slip sole costs very little compared to a brand named running shoe and provide an unparalleled level of slip resistance.”


Your Responsibility as an Employer


Under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), as a restaurant owner you are required by law to take all reasonable precautions to protect your employees from illness or injury.  You are also responsible for training your staff on proper restaurant safety.  This includes using the equipment and providing first aid training, as well as having first aid kits available throughout the workplace.  Finally you are required to post the WSIB “In Case of Injury at Work” poster in a prominent place and the Occupational Health and Safety Act booklet. 

Don’t take your responsibilities lightly.  With Bill C-45 becoming law, you can now be charged under the criminal code if safety standards are not properly maintained.  More information and details of your responsibilities can be found on the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association website (www.crfa.ca), but if you are unsure there are courses and training sessions for both you and your staff available through the OSSA (www.ossa.com).


By Michelle Ponto