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Common workplace hazards for restaurant workers

February 19, 2019
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New workers at most risk; common injuries are cuts and falls

DENVER — Feb. 19, 2019 — As Denverites and restaurants alike prepare for the 15th annual Denver Restaurant Week, a showcase of hundreds of Denver’s top restaurants, leading workers’ compensation insurer Pinnacol Assurance highlights workplace injury trends and common safety hazards restaurants can work to avoid during this especially busy time.

According to Pinnacol’s claims data, approximately 3,700 Coloradoans working in restaurants and hotels were injured on the job in 2018. These claims cost businesses about $12.9 million last year. The most common injuries are:

  1. Cut (from tools such as knives)
  2. Fall (same level, slippery floors)
  3. Strain (lifting — boxes of food, supplies, etc.)
  4. Struck (falling object from a shelf or other)
  5. Burn (steam, hot fluids)

Most of the injuries these workers sustained were minor and not life-altering. However, Pinnacol data indicate restaurant and hotel workers in Colorado have sustained fatal injuries on the job.

Pinnacol’s director of safety services, Jim McMillen, warned that being busy, rushed or fatigued, likely circumstances during Denver Restaurant Week, are major risk factors for injuries. “We hope workers and employers will revisit or refresh their safety training in preparation for this busy couple of weeks to ensure workers aren’t overscheduled and get ample breaks for rest and hydration during this time.”

Pinnacol data indicates a spike in injuries at 10 a.m., when workers are often managing multiple tasks at once. The most expensive and potentially more severe injuries occur around 9 p.m., when fatigue is a major factor. McMillen said, “After a long evening of service, floors and surfaces may be messy and it’s easier to slip. There’s a lot of “close up” and cleanup that needs to take place. Everyone is getting tired and is ready to end their shift. This is when employers need to take extra precautions.”

Pinnacol safety consultant Patrick McGill, who specializes in Colorado’s food service and hospitality industry, stresses the importance of safety training, especially for newer workers. Pinnacol’s claims data showed that workers who have been on the job for six months or less are 35 percent more likely to be injured. Employers and employees should adhere to basic safety protocols, such as:

•    Using proper lifting techniques to eliminate excessive reaching or repetitive motion injuries.
•    Using rubber mats for employees who stand for long periods of time.
•    Wearing cut gloves to help reduce cuts and punctures associated with knives, slicers and broken glass.
•    Requiring and enforce slip-resistant footwear.
•    Cleaning up spills immediately and removing any obstacles or wet spots on the floor.
•    Using pot holders and oven mitts when working around hot equipment or food.
•    Communicating with other workers by yelling “corner,” “behind you” or “hot behind” when moving.  

Check out Pinnacol’s infographic on service and hospitality worker safety.

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