If they aren’t already, hotel owners with a coffee shop or restaurant now have one more thing to worry about:
How serious is this? According to claims data compiled by workers’ compensation carrier AmTrust Financial Services Inc., wrist injuries suffered by coffee shop employees resulted in an average of 366 days away from work, the highest amount of lost time among all restaurant types.
Barista wrist symptoms include upper extremity pain, stiffness, throbbing, cramping, weakness and numbness.
In other words, “barista wrist” might not sound like it, but it’s much more than a minor health risk. The worst cases can mean surgery and weeks of leave for recovery.
In the meantime, of the 84,000 claims AmTrust analyzed, a third involved cuts, punctures and scrapes that can occur during peeling, mincing, dicing and exposure to sharp equipment as well as broken dishes and glasses.
Also common are burns from boiling water, fryers and hot equipment, and surfaces and eye injuries from chemical burns, grease spatter and food particles.
Muscle strains and sprains associated with standing for long periods of time and lifting objects totaled $124.1 million in paid claims. While less frequent, far more expensive falls and slips on greasy and wet floors or loose mats resulted in $198.4 million in paid claims, about 4.5 times more in losses than cuts, punctures and scrapes.
Although it might not be possible to eliminate restaurant employee accidents altogether, there are a few things that can be done to help ensure a safer workplace, among them:
Keep floors clean and dry
One of the easiest ways to reduce restaurant injury risks is to maintain the cleanliness of floors. Be especially careful to keep the areas around refrigerators and freezers free of water and ice buildup. In addition to daily cleaning, floors should be periodically deep-cleaned to ensure they are sufficiently degreased, especially in high traffic areas.
Utilize non-skid rubber mats
Ensuring floors are clean and dry is one of the best strategies for reducing a slip or fall, but take it a step farther by installing non-slip, rubber mats or rugs in areas more prone to accidents, such as around the sinks, preparation and beverage stations, and doorways.
Wear proper shoes
Employees should wear slip-resistant footwear during their shifts, as proper footwear can be critical in preventing slips and falls. Sneakers and other athletic-types of shoes may have a rubber sole, but this does not mean they are non-slip. Look for shoes designed specifically for workers in the restaurant industry.
Remove clutter from high traffic areas
Employees should have a clear path at all times, as it’s common for restaurant workers to move at a quick pace, often while carrying trays of foods and drinks that could obstruct their line of sight. Keep items like cords, hoses, boxes, buckets, garbage cans, tray stands, extra chairs and other possible obstacles tucked neatly away when not in use, and always make sure that any new stock or inventory gets stored immediately.
Assign repetitive tasks throughout the day among workers
When employees have to do the same task over and over for extended periods of time, these monotonous movements can strain muscle groups, leading to fatigue and soreness. Barista wrist is just one example of this. Spread out repetitive tasks, such as food preparation that involves a lot of chopping, to various workers throughout the day.
Teach proper lifting and carrying methods
Lifting heavy items like boxes or pots full of water can also lead to muscle strains in the shoulders, back, neck and legs. Employees should be taught methods for properly lifting and carrying awkward, heavy items to reduce their risk of injury. For example, lifting objects by bending at the knees (not the back), and properly carrying the item by keeping the heaviest part closest to the body. Any object that weighs over 50 pounds should require two people to lift and carry it.
Stay protected from burns
Employees should always wear proper attire, keeping arms covered by using spatter shields or gauntlets when frying and oven mitts when handling hot pots and pans. Change out fryer oil frequently and avoid carrying large stockpots of hot or greasy food from one location to another.
Brian Parks is CCIG’s Commercial Lines VP of Sales. Reach him at BrianP@thinkccig.com or at 720-330-7923.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with the full-service capabilities of a national brokerage. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We also help you manage your long-term cost of risk with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.