So many organizations just slap up a few posters and say a few words to their employees like “be careful,” and then walk away patting themselves on the back for doing a great job on workplace safety. After all… safety is really up to them, right? If a few words was all that it took, we’d have a lot less work to do and far fewer injuries and accidents. But, in reality, safety in food service takes a bit more time, focus and effort.

First, the most common type of injury in our business is slip and fall. Around 72% of workplace injuries are the result of employees wearing the wrong shoes for the work that they do. This figure encompasses all industries, not just food service, but still emphasizes how proper footwear is essential in every industry and environment. The expense of investing in a $50 pair of slip-resistant shoes is minimal compared to what one slip and fall injury can cost you, especially when there are debilitating, long-term health consequences from a severe concussion or similar.

The second most common injury in food service is cuts or lacerations. We use a lot of sharp and dangerous types of tools and equipment. 

The third most common is burns. These are expected due to the nature of work in a kitchen where employees work around hot ovens, open flame, grills, fryers, oils and other liquids. 

So, now knowing what challenges we face, how do we establish a safety effort that has the potential for actual success?

Here are my tried and true suggestions for a safety workplace program…

1. Start at the time of hire with food service safety videos, policies, PPE education and other materials.

2. Make sure that your location not only has the latest posters but also trains new hires on safety rules.

3. Maintain an ongoing Safety Awareness program and highlight a different area/theme each month.

4. Reward good behaviors and actions, including pro-active efforts to identify hazards and fix them.

5. Hold everyone accountable. Make sure there will be consequences for failure to comply.

6. Have a policy of “See Something, Say Something” and don’t let employees walk by hazards.

7. Maintain a Safety Committee and engage your management in the process. Have regular meetings.

8. Develop clear, easy and compliant steps for injury reporting, proper care, recovery and return to work.

Because workplace injuries can cost you a lot in lost time, medical care, recovery time and labor due to shift coverage for the injured employee, you will benefit from making safety a top priority at your organization. It doesn’t take as much time as you think and will show return in improved morale, reduced lost time and less administrative work once safety is part of your culture and your expectations. 

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