Even though restaurants are not thought of as a “high risk environment,” slips and falls do occur more often than they should and are the leading cause of injuries in the industry. It has been estimated that more than 3,000,000 restaurant employees and 1,000,000 restaurant guests are injured annually from accidental slips and falls. These accidents are costing more than an estimated $2,000,000,000 dollars a year.
With these statistics, it is essential that we become proactive by slowing down, stepping back & taking a look at our surroundings, and start focusing on preventing as many of these accidents as possible. Preventing the majority of slips and falls is actually pretty simple and well worth the effort, since these injuries equal loss of productivity, loss of time, and loss of profits. As you know, restaurant injuries can be extremely costly because claims increase insurance expenses, and customer complaints or lawsuits are anything but good for business.
Restaurant owners and managers have a responsibility to ensure that their establishments are well maintained so staff and guests alike are safe. When management fails to do so and slip and fall accidents occur, they can be held liable. You can’t completely stop accidents from occurring; you can, however, do everything in your power to make sure injuries are prevented and you are protected legally. A great place to start would be assessing the risk of a restaurant with The Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) free consultation. You can get more information about this consultation on OSHA’s website.
What are the major causes of slips and falls in the restaurant industry? Topping the list—and estimated to be the cause of approximately half of the falls—are hazardous floors. Restaurants should have a high-grade slip-resistant floor installed to reduce the likelihood of a fall. With the hustle and bustle and urgency to provide excellent service as quickly as possible to the restaurant guests, it is understandable that mistakes will be made and accidents will occur. Drinks, food, oil, grease, and anything and everything else are spilled without the staff taking the time to properly clean up the mess. Not to mention all the debris left on the floor from the in and out traffic of the restaurant guests… Therefore, even if you have installed slip-resistant flooring, the floors can sometimes still be dangerous. Slip and fall prevention starts with the floor surface. Property maintained floors should be a priority. When they are covered with appropriate floor coverings and kept as clean as possible, the risk of an accident occurring is substantially lowered, thereby keeping future insurance costs down. Invest in top notch cleaners and slip-resistant waxes, and make sure they are used frequently. Install slip-resistant mats everywhere they are needed—such as in the kitchen area, around ice bins, drink areas, areas where grease and oil are used, or any area that tends to be wet.
Not only should the non-slip flooring be installed and maintained properly, make sure there are no tears or bulging spots in the carpet, broken steps, or any other risk areas.
Next, proper footwear is a must for all employees. Another quarter percent of slip and fall accidents are due to inadequate footwear. Slip-resistant soles with a well-defined pattern should be required for all staff. There is also the option of an overshoe. This is a shoe that can be slipped over the employee’s shoe and shared among the workers. The more friction between the floor and the shoes, the less the risk of a fall. Make sure the soles are kept clean for good traction. Remind employees to keep laces tightly tied, no open toes, and absolutely no high heels.
There are times when hazardous floors cannot be avoided, such as when it is raining and the floors are wet and slippery from the guests’ shoes. At these times, it is mandatory that hazards be clearly marked by using wet floor caution signs. Even though there are many options, remember that OSHA requires the caution signs to be yellow with black lettering. Good quality mats and a place to leave wet umbrellas are also a necessity. Keeping the floors clean, dry, and free of debris is a must!
A few other things restaurants should do to prevent slips and falls:
Make sure all walkways are clutter-free.
Make sure lighting is adequate, changing light bulbs as soon as possible.
It may be a rule you remember from elementary school, but remind your employees: NO RUNNING!
Encourage employees to clean up spills as soon as possible.
Have a ladder available for those times when employees are tempted to climb on a chair or something to retrieve an object that is out of their reach.
Preventing trips and falls can be accomplished by simply making sure the restaurant’s floor is properly maintained, promoting a shoe policy that encourages employees to wear the proper footwear, cleaning up the spills as soon as possible, displaying appropriate warning signs when necessary, removing the clutter, and by slowing down and constantly reminding the employees that safety always comes first.