Common Worker’s Comp Incidents in Restaurants, Bars, and Small Businesses
A news release by the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that almost 97% of all reported worker’s comp insurance injuries in 2015 occurred in the service industry.1 Although direct costs of these injuries are obvious to employees, they are typically not to employers. Unfortunately, lost productivity, service interruption, retraining, and similar hidden costs can add up quickly.
Understanding Common Injuries
The statistics above are certainly unsettling, but they highlight the dire need to ensure your business is protected by worker’s comp insurance laws and make sure bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and other service industry businesses are safer for all who work there. However, before this can be accomplished, it’s important to know what injuries are the most common for service industry workers.
The risk of cuts and lacerations is everywhere in service industry businesses. The glassware that’s so common in food and beverage service establishments can cause serious injury when used for scooping ice or when older and more fragile glassware is not regularly replaced. Dull knives can slip very easily and result in an injury that renders employees unable to effectively perform their duties.
Keeping knives sharp or replacing them before they become a hazard is a good way to prevent this kind of injury. As well, training on proper glassware procedure can help staff to greatly reduce its risk of injury.
Slips and Falls
This kind of workplace injury is a big part of worker’s compensation insurance costs for restaurant, bar, and other service businesses. Greasy or wet floors can mean a high risk for fast-moving employees, but also for patrons, should these materials be tracked into public areas. The immediate cleaning of spills, as well as the proper placement of signage to warn of hazards, can go a long way to creating a safer work environment. Ensuring there is no clutter in high-traffic areas will help staff to safely and efficiently move from one area to another.
Like all other hazards, the risk of burns is very high in the preparation areas of service businesses. Whether it’s hot oil or water on a restaurant stove or hot beverages in a coffee shop, burns represent a very real, yet very misleading type of injury, as they can be far more serious than employees may initially assume.
However, it’s also important to consider that employees can sustain burns from the equipment they need to operate. That being said, proper training is critical. Other ways to avoid burns, such as providing oven gloves, trays, and similar solutions, should also be considered.
Several new materials were added to OSHA’s hazard communications (HazCom) list in 2016. These materials include those chemicals commonly used to clean and disinfect kitchens, such as ammonia, bleach, and oven cleaner. All of these pose significant risks to respiratory health, due to their ability to be inhaled. Providing protective equipment like masks and making their use mandatory when handling certain chemicals will prevent inhalation illness or injury.
When certain tasks must be completed frequently over long periods of time, repetitive strain injuries can occur. These injuries can cause movement to be impaired and pain, swelling, and discomfort to occur. Not only that, but repetitive strain injury can take several weeks or months to heal completely. Proper lifting, carrying, and bending procedures should be a definite part of your safety plan. These will help employees to avoid repetitive strain.
Protecting Your Business and Employees
There are several ways to protect your business should an employee sustain injury. Let’s look at all of the options for ensuring a safe workplace.
Worker’s Compensation Insurance Quote
Getting a quote for worker’s compensation insurance is one of the most effective ways to ensure that both your business and your employees are protected in the event that they sustain injury from chemicals, burns, slips, or cuts. Compensation insurance will provide your employees with financial help in the event they require medical assistance as the result of their injury. It also allows those employees who are currently losing time at work because of injury to be financially compensated.
Risk Identification and Strategy
In addition to obtaining worker’s comp insurance for self-employed individuals, it’s important to carefully study the spaces in your business and the functions which take place there. You’ll also want to ensure that you’re aware of any job-specific safety threats, as well as how employees move from one area of your business to another. Once this is complete, a strategy can be developed which encompasses all aspects of mitigating risk.
Some important elements of risk identification and strategy are being proactive, educating and training employees, committing to workplace and employee safety, and promoting regular program evaluations.
Taking Proactive Steps
Being proactive about employee safety in your business can mean anything from making it mandatory for employees to wear protective footwear and clothing to anticipating potential injuries by putting yourself in the employees’ places to better understand their injury risks. Another way to be proactive about employee safety can be to invest in and implement solutions, such as providing employees with non-slip footwear or installing anti-slip flooring in high-risk areas.
Educating and Training Employees
Being proactive about workplace safety can go a long way to preventing employee injury. However, education and training are also needed to further solidify the concept and importance of workplace safety.
By educating employees about the safety risks and consequences of injury, and then ensuring they are repeatedly reminded of this, workplace safety will become a habit. Education can be implemented right from the time that a new employee is hired with training and orientation sessions. These sessions should provide employees with the tools they need to identify risks, prevent workplace accidents and injury, and help other employees should they become injured.
Access to Safety Tools and Information
Included in the provision of tools for employees is to make those tools accessible at all times. For example, ensuring there is a first aid kit within easy reach will give employees a way to assist themselves or their coworkers. The same is true of displaying safety policy posters and publishing employee handbooks which detail the safety policies that are in place at your establishment.
You may also want to ensure that there is easy access to emergency contact information, such as for police, ambulance, and fire rescue. As well, it can be a good idea to post the name, address, and phone number of the nearest emergency room or clinic in a visible or easily accessible area.
Rules Enforcement, Auditing, and Other Measures
Your commitment to the safety of your employees should not end at the measures described above. Once you have created your safety policies and have trained employees to be aware of how to handle safety risks, you will need to ensure that your policies are enforced but also ensure that all management staff members follow these rules as well. Having management that leads by example will create an environment of accountability, which will benefit all aspects of your business.
Management should be responsible for ensuring employees are following policies and procedures for safety by being vigilant about this. Maintaining your commitment to employee safety also means requiring management to take disciplinary measures should employees neglect to follow the rules. Enlisting the authority of industry professionals in conducting regular safety audits and education sessions can further illustrate the importance of workplace safety to employees.
Along with the safety audits of your establishment by third parties, you’ll also want to consider the importance of frequently updating and auditing your in-house safety policies. Reviewing your procedures on a yearly basis will ensure that any new additions in the form of safety procedures or hazards are identified and analyzed.
Your Obligation to Provide a Safe Workplace
Employers in all industries are obligated by law to provide all of their employees with a way to protect themselves from workplace injury risks, as well as a way to support them should they become injured while working. At the same time, you must also ensure that your own business is protected with worker’s comp insurance for small businesses.
The Tabak Insurance Agency understands the safety risks of service businesses. We can help you find the best coverage for your business and your budget. Learn more about your options for workman’s comp insurance today.