The emergency room nurse barley took her eyes from the computer screen before asking, “How did this accident happen?”
“I slipped on a cucumber,” answered my 17-year-old daughter, cradling her swollen wrist. Her uniform, stained from making sandwiches at a local, fast-casual eatery smelled of sweat and dough. Her wrist was turning black and blue.
“Is that a joke?”
It wasn’t. Injuries like this are all too common, sending 8 million Americans to the ER each year and costing more than $20 billion. Mistakes happen, but preventing slip-and-fall accidents in commercial kitchens protects workers from harm and employers from liability.
And yes, I am writing this in the ER waiting room.
A Common Danger
The National Floor Safety Institute released staggering data about slip-and-fall incidents. They are the number one cause of accidents in restaurants, with 70% occurring on flat and level surfaces. They are also the leading cause of occupational injury for people aged 15-24 years.
“Slips and falls statistically land at the top of the list of accidents that occur in food service kitchens," agrees Jeff Nelken, food safety expert and trainer, in an article in EHS Today. The causes are obvious: wet, sticky or greasy floors and fast-moving employees.
Identify Problem Spots
There are many slip-and-fall hotspots in a commercial kitchen. Vegetable slices (like cucumber) and their juice accumulate around cutting areas. Oil and grease splatter and land under deep fryers. Ice machines usually have a puddle or two around them. Even rubber mats, meant to protect workers from slick floors, often become hazards themselves, either because workers catch a toe on an edge or the mat has not been well maintained and lost its ability to grip.
There are plenty of danger zones on the customer side of a restaurant too. Wet shoes, dripping coats and umbrellas leave puddles. Self-serve drink areas generate spilled sodas and melting ice. And restroom floors may have water droplets around the sink and paper towel dispenser.
Make Maintenance Easy
Keeping floors clean and dry is paramount to preventing slip-and-fall accidents in commercial kitchens. Instruct staff to remove all spills and dry the floor immediately. Dirty mops soaking in dirty water is Nelken’s least favorite tool for the job. “Swiping greasy, dirty water back over the floor is not going to make that floor less slipper or clean,” he insists.
Try a Dispense-and-Vac system instead. This technology removes heavy soils and grease quickly leaving floors clean, hygienic and dry.
(And in case you were wondering, it was only a sprain.)
Click here for more tools for preventing slip-and-fall accidents in commercial kitchens.
Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.