Restaurant employees are exposed to several risks, safety, and health hazards at their workplace much like their counterparts in industries such as construction, manufacturing, healthcare etc. Infact, a 2019 report published by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a whopping 93,800 cases of non-fatal injuries in full-service restaurants alone.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has therefore defined a set of rules and regulations for the safety of both employees and customers across industries. In this blog:
- OSHA rules and regulations applicable for restaurant business owners
- OSHA training for restaurants
After world war II, 1960’s was about economic expansion at a fast pace in the US which led to high-rate of injuries and deaths at workplace. The political pressure on Congress with regards to the safety of employees at the workplace led to the creation of OSHA in 1970. The primary task of OSHA was to establish and enforce a set of standards to keep working men and women safe and healthy while working at their place of employment. OSHA reinforced these standards through outreach, training, education, and assistance for employers and their employees.
OSHA for Restaurants
OSHA rules and regulations across establishments (factories, manufacturing units, food establishments) are similar however, the implementation of those rules varies from one industry to another. In addition to these standards, OSHA provides specific rules and regulations that are applicable to restaurant owners to ensure safety of their employees from serious recognized hazards as per OSHA. These include:
- Displaying an official OSHA poster in a high-traffic, prominent, and easily visible location on the premises. The poster should clearly notify employee rights under the OSH Act and a list of the establishment owner’s obligations.
- Up to date records of accidents and injuries that occur in the workplace.
- Reporting the local OSHA authority of any accident, fatalities, hospitalizations, injuries, vision impairment, physical disability of an employee at the workplace within eight hours of the event occurrence.
- Access of medical records to employees and their representatives.
- Liberty to connect with the local OSHA authorities.
Read our detailed guide on OSHA for restaurants here.
- Reformed OSHA guidelines for restaurants post Covid-19
Covid-19 turned our world upside down making social distancing, wearing mask, and adhering to covid appropriate behaviour the new norm. In line with these changes, OSHA enforced a new set of safety standards for restaurants. The most important regulation being owners to report Covid positive case to the local OSHA authority, others include:
- Minimize or limited direct contact with drive-thru/takeaway customers.
- No show at workplace for employees who are sick or show symptoms to control the spread of virus.
- Mandatory covid appropriate hygiene practice training.
- Regular cleaning and disinfecting surfaces using recommended cleaning agents.
- Provide all employees masks and PPE kits to wear at the workplace.
- Keep employees informed about colleagues infected by the virus.
Restaurant employee rights as defined by OSHA
- A safe and secure workplace
- Right to file a worker’s compensation claim in case of an injury on the job
- Payment of minimum wage through hourly pay, tips or both
- Overtime pay beyond 40 work hours in a week
- 30 minute break in a six hour shift
- Protection laws for minor workers (under 18)
OSHA compliance in restaurants
Now that you are aware of the basic OSHA rules and regulations for restaurants, you must be wondering how do you implement or in which areas of your restaurant do you implement these. Don’t fret we got you covered. Focus on reinforcing safety and health standards in the following ways and areas to be OSHA compliant:
- Clear and open communication: Create a friendly culture and encourage open communication both from top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top. Clearly communicate health and safety regulations in both verbal and written modes and encourage your employees to do the same. Give them an assurance that they can report any incident or practice which they see as a potential safety hazard to you without the fear of being judged.
- Training: OSHA has made employee health and safety training mandatory for all employees. The training should help employees use tools and machines necessary for their jobs taking all safety precautions. They should also be trained on how to work safely around heat in commercial kitchens to avoid burns, hot oil splashes and hot plates. They should also be given basic first-aid training for burns, cuts, injuries and other emergency procedures.
- PPE kits and tools: Injuries such as sprains, muscle pull, strains, burns, cuts, lacerations and puncture wounds, eye injury, are common in restaurants. Providing safety equipment like apron, head cover, gloves, anti-skid shoes, trolleys for moving heavy equipment, tools to handle large and hot utensils is mandatory for employee safety at work. As an employer make to provide safety equipment to all employees in order to comply with OSHA regulations.
- Proactive preventive measures: To prevent accidents due to a slip or a fall ensure n any spills right are cleaned right away, walkways are free of any obstructions, there are enough functional trolleys to move around stuff etc.
- Safe food handling: A restaurant business is all about good, safe, and hygienic food. OSHA has clear guidelines on safe food handling practices, which a restaurant owner must make sure to implement. Washing hands with soap and warm water before and after handling food, washing utensils in warm water and soap, wiping food preparation surfaces with recommended cleaners and sanitizing them to kill bacteria and viruses, boiling any sponges being used to avoid contamination of food, dishes and utensils are a few key OSHA guidelines with regards to food safety. Make sure your employees follow these to be OSHA compliant.
- Optimal Working Conditions: Restaurant kitchens are always bustling with activity and often generate a significant amount of heat because of the appliances used. Being exposed to such temperatures can make employees uncomfortable and ill. As per OSHA guidelines provide areas with air conditioning and proper ventilation next to the kitchen for employees to take a break. Make sure the kitchen area is well ventilated, all exhaust, chimneys, windows etc are functional. Educate employees to signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion and teach them basic first aid techniques to handle kitchen injuries.
- Employ keeping age in mind: Working as a server or helper is one of the most popular part-time job among high school students for some side income. However, when onboarding high-schoolers do comply with OSHA’s age restrictions, permissible working hours for people of that age-group, and the nature of work they are allowed to do. An employee below 16 cannot handle the bar, bake, cook, or use any appliance that can lead to an injury.
Things you can do as a restaurant owner to be OSHA compliant
- Recruit a dedicated safety officer whose main focus is to make sure the administrative systems, hazard communication, and workplace training requirements are OSHA compliant.
- Hire a qualified and professional safety consultant to guide and assist you and the safety officer with compliance requirements such as chemical hazard or noise exposure at the workplace. A professional brings in the expertise to identify what steps you must take in order to be OSHA compliant.
- Get on board an industrial hygienists to recognize, evaluate, anticipate and control workplace conditions that may lead to employees injury or illness.
- Conduct periodic assessment done. Things to be assessed include the premises, furniture, all electronics, kitchen equipment, fire fighting equipment, plumbing lines etc.
- Planning to introduce a new menu or expand your restaurant real-estate, make sure that requirements for OSHA compliance are being met.
Make your restaurant a safe and happy place to work by implementing these OSHA guidelines.