According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.3 hospitality workers out of 100 experienced workplace injury in 2019. With 13 million people working in the industry throughout the US, taking preventative measures to prevent serious injury or harm must be a priority. In fact, implementing effective workplace safety is a growing issue across the industry. Now, owners and managers are placing greater emphasis on protecting their workers.

In part, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for more robust workplace safety plans than perhaps ever before. Introducing a myriad of new measures to help workers adapt to the “new normal.” The bottom line is that hospitality has had to adapt more than other industries to the current climate. As such, workplace safety has become a critical component in ensuring that businesses can continue to operate.

However, in order to understand how to effectively implement workplace safety practices in the hospitality industry, we must first understand a few things. The common situations in which workplace injuries occur, how hazards present themselves, and how these situations can be exacerbated when coupled with certain risk factors. Here, we explore a range of industry concerns, common risk factors that must be considered, and how you can build safer working environments within your venue.

Common safety concerns to be aware of

Although the risk of workplace injury is often unpredictable, some hazards in hospitality occur more frequently than others. The following three causes are the most common reasons for injury in the workplace and are apparent in every hospitality setting. These concerns need to be identified and managed in order to reduce the risk of injury for everyone present and ensuring your existing protocols cover each of these concerns is the ideal place to begin when addressing workplace safety.

1. Incorrect manual handling 

It is highly likely that employees in the hospitality industry will, at some point, be required to handle heavy items such as furniture, luggage, bulky deliveries, and more. In order to minimize the risk of injury, all staff must be trained in the correct way to manually handle heavy or awkwardly shaped items. Additionally, those with pre-existing injuries or conditions should not be expected to undertake these types of tasks, and employers should be aware of those individuals before assigning these jobs.

2. Slips, trips, and falls

Perhaps unsurprisingly, slips, trips, and falls account for the majority of injuries in the hospitality industry, especially among chefs and waiting staff. Walkway hazards, food spillages, and wet floors must be managed to reduce these kinds of accidents. Appropriate footwear, good housekeeping, and good lighting are practical measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of accidents from slips, trips, and falls. Additionally, regular reviews of potential hazards within working environments are crucial to minimizing the risk of injuries caused.

3. Occupational violence 

The societal nature of the hospitality industry means that staff are always at risk of occupational violence, particularly in bars, restaurants, hotels, and any other businesses operating at night. Measures can be taken to reduce the risk of occupational violence in the workplace, however, unfortunately, there is no single measure that can prevent unpredictable violence from happening in the workplace. The best way to combat unpredictable occupational violence is to ensure employees can call for help as soon as a situation begins to escalate beyond their control. Additionally, ensuring staff are trained in incident control is highly important.

Risk factors

Certain risk factors can come into play and further exacerbate incidents and lead to greater chances of injury for employees and guests alike. When common concerns are coupled with these risk factors, dangerous combinations occur, leading to the greatest possibility of injury for any party involved in the hazard.

Risk factors include:

  • Inexperienced and young employees
  • Employees overextending themselves with tasks
  • Long working hours and split shifts
  • Staff with multiple jobs

Inexperienced workers and lack of supervision are two of the most common risk factors which result in injury, especially when coupled with an already hazardous situation. Some employees will also inevitably feel the need to impress the boss, their supervisor, or even co-workers, often to the point of attempting dangerous and physically demanding tasks which are beyond their own capabilities. This type of behavior should be identified and eliminated, particularly with younger employees.

Long working days are also a significant risk factor as people naturally tend to lose focus towards the end of a long, tiring shift. This loss of focus or concentration can be dangerous, and even fatal when coupled with common workplace hazards. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure workers are not exhausted when beginning a shift, as particularly within hospitality, staff may have multiple jobs.

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How to create a safe working environment for everybody

The goal of the employer should be to minimize the risk of injury in the workplace for all employees and guests. There are different measures and procedures which can be put in place to ensure a safe working environment for everybody in the venue. This means that employees should not pose a risk to themselves or other employees, and it is your job to ensure that this is the case by promoting safer working environments through awareness and individual responsibility.

Start with the hiring process

Workplace safety ultimately begins within the employee selection process. Many employers can benefit from incorporating safety-oriented questions into their interviewing and hiring process. Candidates who exhibit safety awareness should be selected over those who do not. This allows you to create a safety-oriented culture in your business from the ground up with employees who share these beliefs and concerns. Those without the requisite knowledge of simple safety and security measures may also be hired but will likely require more comprehensive training.

Training your employees

Training for employees is critical. Whether it’s their first job or they have decades of experience, all employees should be guided through the same thorough safety training. Every employee in the business should be trained in health and safety procedures and routinely informed of the latest safety practices and techniques—maintenance doesn’t just apply to machines, and ensuring staff are regularly updated on protocols is an ongoing process that should always strive for improvement.

Add security measures

Security personnel should also be prioritized within your establishment, and every employee should be aware of their presence. This also means that employees should also be aware of when to report suspicious activity to security and how to do this in a diplomatic and tactful way. Additionally, ensuring security is readily available and approachable is highly important.

Wearable panic buttons

For unpredictable situations, one practical measure that employers in the hospitality industry can implement to ensure staff and security can work together effectively and efficiently is to implement the use of wearable panic buttons. Many states have even mandated the use of these devices, making it law for employers to provide employees with them during working hours for safety and protection.

Panic buttons can make a huge difference to safety and security for employees and guests alike, providing a fast reaction to anyone who is injured and ensuring immediate medical care, bringing attention to escalating situations before they become serious, and generally ensuring safety and providing peace of mind for anyone within the venue. Additionally, they are useful devices in combating crime or antisocial behavior, allowing staff to flag issues discreetly and without having to deal with these types of problems alone.

Policies and credentials

In addition to responding to panic button calls, your security staff may also play a pivotal role in ensuring guests adhere to policies put in place to protect everybody’s wellbeing during the current pandemic. This means reminding guests to wear masks and disinfect their hands in a friendly but firm manner, as well as ensuring social distancing is maintained within your building.

Furthermore, security can check the credentials of each visitor that comes to your venue for work, for example, builders or temporary catering staff. As part of this system and to avoid the possibility of anybody simply wandering into your venue without having to show visitor credentials, side and back doors should always be locked after being opened, and a logical flowthrough of guests should be maintained in common areas.

Protocols and planning

Finally, health and safety is the responsibility of everybody, and all staff should be able to identify hazards and deal with them instantly. Alongside robust and comprehensive protocols, members of staff must be informed of the evacuation plan and this information must be presented visibly around your venue for guests to view. Having an effective evacuation plan with informed staff could be the difference between life and death should a tragedy such as a fire occur.

Review, revise and update

Instilling a culture of health and safety in any organization takes time and effort, but despite your best efforts, accidents can always occur. Unpredictable situations, violence or imminent, threatening behavior from guests cannot always be avoided and in these cases, employees are in danger of physical or emotional harm. However, by regularly reviewing and updating protocols, you can significantly minimize risks to both guests and staff, helping to build a safer environment for all stakeholders.

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AvatarYasmine Mustafa

Yasmine Mustafa is a social entrepreneur and the CEO & Co-Founder of ROAR for Good. Based in Philadelphia, ROAR is a woman-led and mission-driven technology company dedicated to cultivating safer workplaces. Their staff safety platform, The AlwaysOn™, is specifically designed for the hotel industry to summon help with one touch of a button. Fueled by a passion to leverage technology for good, she leads the ROAR team in their mission to create safer workplaces and empowered communities.