Restaurants employ millions of people in the U.S. alone, and they account for over a quarter of all of the workers' compensation claims made each year according to Farmers Insurance. A busy kitchen or dining area is full of hazards that can lead to a minor or serious injury, and even a relatively small cut or sprain may translate into a valid workers' compensation claim.
Understanding the complex risks posed by the restaurant workplace will help you determine your rights as an injured employee. Watch out for these five sources of injury risk as you're working in the kitchen.
1. Cooking Oil
Cooking oil is necessary for giving french fries and wiener schnitzels a deep golden color and crunch, but the same substance also causes hundreds of injuries a year. Many claims for workers' compensation from restaurant workers involve burns from a deep fryer or frying pan full of hot oil.
However, oil causes more than just burn injuries. Spilling even just a few drops on the floor creates a serious slip and fall hazard that can injure multiple employees before the problem is solved. Finally, heavy containers of oil can even lead to repetitive use and strain injuries when lifted for filling a fryer or emptying waste oil into a collection tank.
2. Knives and Cutting Boards
Employees who handle knives to prep essential ingredients are at particular risk for some serious injuries. One slip of a very sharp and large chef's knife can sever a finger or damage muscle and tendons in a way that leads to permanent disability and loss of the use of a hand.
Knives aren't the only risk factor when cutting and prepping ingredients either. A cutting board that shifts or slips during a cut is just as likely to cause an injury. Make sure your employer invests in slipproof cutting boards to lower your chances of a cut injury as you work.
3. Insufficient Training
Many of the worst injuries that occur in restaurant kitchens are solely or partially caused by poor training. A restaurant has a duty to train each team member in the proper skills before putting them on a certain task with high risk factors, such as cutting garnishes with a sharp knife.
If your employer failed to give you adequate training and you were injured due to a lack of knowledge, you're likely qualified to make a workers' compensation claim. Making the claim can help encourage your employer to improve their training processes so new hires don't experience the same injury.
4. Processing Equipment
The heavy-duty grinders, cutters, and mixers used in most restaurants are so risky that most states restrict the use of this equipment by anyone under the age of 18. Even when the machinery is off, slipping while you're cleaning sharp blades or a deep well in the equipment can lead to a life-changing injury.
Employees need specific training on each piece of specialty equipment before they're assigned to use it. Ask your employer for all the pertinent safety information on the equipment you use in the equipment, such as proper shutoff procedure to verify a unit can't turn on while someone is working on it.
5. Hazardous Chemicals
Keeping the kitchen and dining area clean in a busy restaurant usually requires the use of multiple chemicals that all come with potential health risks. Many of those risks compound when you're exposed to the same cleaning products or chemicals on a daily basis.
Your employer may be required to keep certain safety equipment or manufacturer data sheets (MDS) on hand to warn you of the specific risks of the products you're using.Contact us here at Hernandez Law Offices if you're injured while working at a restaurant. Regardless of the type of restaurant, we're ready to help you make a workers' compensation claim.