Restaurant and food service is one of the largest industries in the United States. As a business owner and manager in this industry, you face unique challenges ranging from hiring, training, and retaining employees; service quality; rising costs; and regulatory demands, to name a few. Additionally, workplace accidents can have a huge impact on your business and profits due to increased insurance costs, lost productivity and work time, hiring and training temporary replacement employees, repairing or replacing damaged equipment, and tarnished business reputation.
There are many safety risks present in a restaurant. To keep your business safe for employees as well as customers, it is important to be aware of hazards and minimize them as much as possible. Proactive restaurant safety and workers’ compensation programs offer the best way to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and reduce the costs of doing business.
The following actions are designed to help restaurant operators reduce risk, prevent employee injuries, and lower costs:
- Understand how work-related employee injury and illness claims impact your workers’ compensation insurance experience modification and how you can reduce long-term insurance premium costs
- Review and update management best practices on employee hiring, orientation, training, education, and supervisor accountability
- Know where to send your injured employees for proper medical care
- Develop transitional tasks to help injured employees return to work
- Save video recordings of workplace incidents, and document thorough investigations to identify root causes and actions to prevent incident recurrence
Recognize hazards and implement corrective actions before injuries occur. Focus on the following key restaurant employee injury hazards:
- Slips, trips, and falls are the most costly type of restaurant employee incident. Reduce risk with proper floor care, slip resistant footwear, strategic placement of slip resistant mats, and effective spill clean-up practices.
- Lacerations are the most frequent injuries among restaurant employees. Sources usually involve knives, slicers, and broken glass. To help reduce laceration injuries, implement a knife-sharpening program, require cut resistant gloves, implement procedures for broken glass that eliminate handling with bare hands and ensures proper disposal, train staff on proper slicer use. When possible and practical, use alternatives to cutting with knives. Food processors and presses can reduce sources of lacerations.
- Burns are painful and often result in permanent injury. To prevent burns, turn off power and let equipment cool before cleaning. Allow oil to cool and use automated equipment to remove, dispose of, and replace fryer oil. Wear proper personal protective equipment when cooking or cleaning. Regulate the temperature of water and equipment to what is needed to help avoid scalding liquids.
- Manual material handling tasks can lead to serious employee sprain and strain injuries. Ensure safe storage practices with lighter items on higher and lower shelves. Use the middle shelves (between chest and waist level) for the heavier items. Use assistive devices such as carts and dollies to move heavier loads, equipment, tables, chairs, trays, tubs, and kegs. Train and lead employees in following safe lifting procedures.
- Work with your insurance agent and workers’ compensation insurance company to assist in evaluating your employee hazards and safety controls.
Effective employee training, supervision, accountability, and engagement are vital in creating awareness and establishing a culture that embraces safety and health.
Zenith Insurance Company offers a wide variety of safety, risk management, and HR resources to help policyholders prevent employee injuries and reduce claim costs. We provide onsite, expert safety and health consultative services; restaurant-specific safety materials; online training resources; claims management and litigation prevention best practice guides; employee hiring and screening tools; and access to discounted safety and risk control products. Contact your insurance agent to learn more as they can assist you in these efforts and how best to utilize Zenith restaurant safety services.
Source: Zenith Safety & Health
If you are considering implementing a mandatory vaccine policy, you will need to think through several issues. Here is a short summary:
What do you mean by “mandatory?”
Before announcing that a policy is “mandatory,” decide what you mean by that. Will those who refuse be terminated? Will they be suspended? Or will they just face a requirement that they get tested on a regular basis?
Must I accommodate an employee’s refusal?
If your business is covered by Title VII or the ADA, you will need to evaluate whether you must accommodate those employees whose medical conditions or religious beliefs do not permit them to get vaccinated. The starting point for medical accommodations are the conditions that the FDA lists as contraindications for receiving vaccinations. But if an employee claims that some other condition justifies an accommodation, you will need to give that consideration as well.
Once the employee provides proof of a disability, you’ll need to consider whether they pose a direct threat to themself or others by remaining unvaccinated, and then decide what kind of accommodation is appropriate. Is it enough for them to be masked while working? Will you require them to undergo regular COVID testing?
Religious accommodation requests can be tricky. Few religions oppose vaccination. But the EEOC says that religion should be given a broad definition and that an employee’s beliefs do not need to line up with the canons of a specific religion. According to the EEOC, religion includes “moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”
Thus, the focus of religious accommodation questions should ordinarily not be on whether the belief is sincerely held, but whether the requested accommodation poses a hardship to the employer.
Do I have to pay for testing or vaccinations?
If an employer requires an employee to take time off work to go get vaccinated or tested, the employer may need to pay the employee for that time. And if the employee will end up having to pay the cost of a test that is required by the employer, the employer may also need to pay for the cost of that test. Likewise, time spent traveling to a site to get vaccinated at the employer’s direction may be compensable.
What questions can I ask?
An employer is permitted to ask whether an employee has been vaccinated. If the employee answers “no, “ the best practice is to not ask “why not,” as EEOC believes that this question might force the employee to reveal the existence of a disability that he or she would prefer not to disclose. Instead, focus on what the employment consequences of remaining vaccinated will be, and allow the employee to seek a reasonable accommodation if one is needed.
Should I seek legal counsel?
There are many nuances that affect how such policies should be designed and executed. Even if well-intentioned, these policies can create legal risks when poorly designed. Before implementing a mandatory vaccination policy, it is a good idea to consult with legal counsel.
Source: Kevin Johnson, Johnson Jackson, PLLC
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