Food Service Workers Face Machine-Related Dangers
November 23, 2021
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in the food and beverage industry will grow by 17% from 2020-2030, which is faster than the average growth rate in all other industries. With more than one million positions available annually, the industry is undoubtedly a booming one. While many food and beverage sales positions come without previous experience or education requirements (though this is not always the case), workers face several significant job-related risks. Some of the most notable hazards that restaurant and food service workers encounter are dangerous tools, objects, and machinery that are commonplace in commercial kitchen spaces and restaurants across the country.
More than 4.4 million Americans worked for food service companies in 2020, according to the BLS. Food service workers hold positions in a variety of different professional settings, such as restaurants, schools, care facilities, and other dining places. Food service work shifts vary, as well; some individuals work overnight while others work early in the morning, afternoon, evening, on holidays, or seasonally. The flexibility of full or part-time food service work is a draw for many prospective employees, but with it sometimes comes the danger of minimal training, a high turnover rate, and a lack of familiarity with the job.
On-the-Job Hazards for Food Workers
According to the BLS, there were 93,800 non-fatal illnesses and injuries in restaurants in 2019. Approximately one-third of these injuries and/or illnesses resulted in at least one day away from work. Front of house workers (or forward-facing employees) like bartenders, hosts, cashiers, servers, food runners, and barbacks, face their own unique on-the-job hazards. These include slips, trips, and falls from wet or unmaintained surfaces, injuries associated with lifting or carrying heavy loads without adequate assistance, and laceration, bruise, cut, and burn risks that are primarily related to exposure and job requirements, like working around hot liquids and preparing (cutting) fruits and other items to garnish products. Unlike front of house workers, however, back of house employees (line cooks, kitchen managers, executive and sous chefs, prep cooks, and dishwashers) tend to face even more significant work-related hazards that involve coming into contact with dangerous or defective machinery and can lead to catastrophic, life-changing injuries.
Here are just a few examples of equipment-related hazards that back of house employees encounter every day:
- Bakery mixers
- Food processors
- Pressure cookers and steamers
- Portable power tools (like handheld blenders and electric carving knives)
- Meat slicers, choppers, and dicers
- Gas ovens
- Garbage disposals
Machines with moving parts possess the ability to inflict debilitating and deadly injuries, like crushing injuries, strangulation, amputation, and broken bones. When employers fail to take proper safety and health precautions or manufacturers produce and distribute defective or unreasonably dangerous equipment, innocent workers are the ones who pay.
Ways to Protect Workers
Employers in the food service industry are legally obligated to comply with numerous safety and health requirements, as mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). One of the most impactful ways that employers can shield workers from sustaining equipment-related injuries on the job is to safeguard machinery. Safeguarding machinery entails installing guards to prevent access to dangerous or hazardous areas. The employer should install guards directly on the machine to prevent workers from coming into contact with moving parts, debris, and sparks. Machine guards cannot create additional pinch-points, or areas where it is possible for a person or a part of a person’s body to get caught between the machine’s moving parts.
Other possible solutions that OSHA provides for reducing industrial machine-related incidents include:
- Turn off and unplug machinery before cleaning or servicing it
- Securely fix or bolt equipment to a table top or bench
- Provide proper training on how to safely use machinery in a language that workers can easily understand
- Avoid loose fitting clothing and jewelry that may get caught or pulled into the machine
Filing a Products Liability or Workers’ Compensation Claim
If an individual is injured at work, aggravates a pre-existing physical problem at work, or develops a work-related illness, he or she is entitled to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. Just like employers are responsible for complying with federal health and safety guidelines, manufacturers must also abide by certain requirements to keep consumers safe. If a product like a meat slicer, bakery mixer, or food processor causes injury because of an unsafe design, manufacturing defect, malfunction, or the failure to provide proper instructions and warnings, the victim should consider filing a products liability lawsuit.
The attorneys at our firm fight tirelessly on behalf of injured restaurant workers. Here are some examples of notable recoveries in our firm’s history:
- Our client sustained significant injuries after her hand came into contact with a defective milkshake machine. The machine lacked adequate guarding, which allowed for our client’s hand to come into contact with the agitator when the cup she was holding slipped out of her hold. Our client suffered a severe avulsion and laceration injury to her right hand, palm, and small finger. Our client’s injuries led to the eventual amputation of her small finger laceration and a surgical tendon repair of her ring finger. Rick Jurewicz successfully recovered a confidential six-figure settlement for our injured client.
- Our client, a food service worker, suffered an extensive crushing injury that included fractures to her ring, long, and index fingers after her hand was caught in the in-running pinch point of the feed roller on a dough roller machine. The injury impacted the client’s functional ability to use her hand normally and caused post traumatic arthritis as well as significant stiffness and discomfort. Partner, Rick Jurewicz, obtained a confidential six-figure settlement for the client.
Filing a workers’ compensation or products liability claim is a complex process, so it is best to have an experienced attorney on your side. For over seventy years at Galfand Berger, our team has represented thousands of individuals injured at work or by dangerous and unsafe products. If you need help obtaining justice and compensation for your injuries, someone at our firm can help. To learn more, contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Helping Injured Individuals Since 1947
If you have a legal question or concern, please contact our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys. Galfand Berger LLP has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.