The U.S. Department of Labor reports the leading cause of injuries in the hospitality industry is slips, trips and falls. Such injuries often result in several days off from work and many compensation claims. Compensation and medical costs associated with employee slip/fall accidents is approximately $70 billion a year, according to the National Safety Council.
“Kitchens and dining rooms can be very dangerous places,” says Edward Sharek, production development and sourcing manager at CMC Group, the Bowling Green, Ohio-based parent of DayMark Safety Systems. DayMark is an industry leader in food labeling and facility safety.
There are several actions food service operators and their employees can take to minimize hazards in kitchens and dining rooms, including obvious actions and less apparent ways, Sharek says.
1. Stay clear and dry.
Make certain floors are free of debris and clutter. Do not store items on the floor or in stairwells. Close cabinet doors after use. Do not wax, polish or treat floors in a way that might cause them to be slippery. Make sure lighting is sufficient for employees and customers to see where they are going. Immediately replace burned out bulbs and fix electrical failures.
Mats should be placed on a clean, dry surface—a mat on a wet floor presents a serious slip hazard. Mats also should be well maintained; torn or ripped mats should be removed or repaired immediately. Operators should look for mats with high-traction backing to prevent movement. Torn carpeting also should be replaced or repaired.
2. Study the floors.
Wherever possible, or in new construction, install high-traction flooring that meets standards established by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) in Southlake, Texas. The institute can monitor the co-efficient of friction (COF)—the measure of slip resistance—at different spots in a food service operation.
Russell Kendzior, founder of the NFSI, recommends operators consider hiring a “certified walkway auditor” or other qualified professional who can test floor safety, identify hazards and measure the slip resistance of flooring.
3. Keep an eye on the equipment.
“Equipment should always be kept in good working order and not leaking grease or oil,” Sharek says. Also, make certain cords to electrical appliances are not dangling or creating a tripping hazard.
Cover pans with lids whenever they are being carried so liquids do not spill on the floor, says Sharek. In addition, do not overfill bussing containers. Items can fall, creating tripping hazards. OSHA warns that employees can become preoccupied with keeping liquids or other items from spilling out of a container, and forget to watch their step.
4. Train, train, train.
“Employees should be trained to look for dangers in the workplace, including faulty equipment, potential trip hazards and disorganized spaces,” Sharek says. Both the NFSI and the National Restaurant Association offer training resources for slip-and-fall prevention, he adds.
Additionally, employees should be trained to report accidents as soon as they occur. “Employees should investigate the root cause of the accident, and an accident report should be completed,” Sharek advises. Once the cause of the accident has been determined, the hazard should be eliminated altogether if possible.
5. Act fast when spills occur.
Stop and quickly clean up spills as soon as possible, and use wet floor signs to mark the area. “Properly cleaning and drying floors as needed is crucial,” Sharek says. To address such problems, DayMark has introduced SafetyApplied Absorbent Spill Pads, which can quickly absorb liquid splatters in both the front- and back-of-the-house, eliminating the need for the unsightly and obtrusive mop and bucket.
Brian Porter, store manager at Ralphie’s Sports Eatery in Perrysburg, Ohio, says the spill pads have been instrumental in efficiently cleaning up messes. “They are very effective for blocking the spill off right away and absorbing the spills,” Porter says, adding that they also are easy to dispose of when done using.