The Chicago Occupational Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Injured Restaurant Workers
Successful restaurants with satisfied customers are often the result of tasty meals, the best equipment, quality ingredients, and happy workers. The role of a restaurant worker often involves cleaning, rotating supplies, preparing food, cooking entrées, time management, and working in a safe environment. Compared to other industries, food service jobs typically pay well and are usually available in local communities.
The restaurant worker typically works in the "back of the house" where food is prepped, dishes are cleaned, and meals are served to customers in the "front of the house." While a small restaurant might have just a single cook or chef, larger establishments will have a comprehensive food preparation team that includes the chef, sous chef, prep chef, line cook, food preparers, and bakers. The kitchen manager is usually the one who is responsible for training employees, maintain the inventory, provide supervision, and perform administrative duties.
Some restaurant workers perform their duties in the "front of the house" where they worked directly with the customer. These jobs might include a host or hostess that greet and seek the customer, servers (waiters and waitresses), bussers to clean away dirty dishes from the table, runners who bring dishes to the customer, bartenders, and cashiers. Based on the complexity and size of the establishment, there might also be table captains, floor managers, and shift managers.
To remain successful, every member of the team must monitor their attention to detail from the moment the customer arrives until the doors are locked for the evening. The cooks must ensure that their workstation and tools are meticulously clean and sanitized to avoid food poisoning and contamination. This duty extends to the dishwasher who oversees ensuring that every plate, bowl, utensil, glass and coffee cup has been washed and sanitized for the next customer.
Restaurant Worker Hazards
Maintaining safety in a restaurant work environment is crucial to the health and well-being of the worker, guests, and visitors. This is because work in a restaurant environment can be unhealthy and dangerous. Common hazards and dangers involved in the restaurant industry include:
- Ergonomic Hazards – Many restaurant workers stand for extended amounts of time in a single position usually on a hard floor, which can cause back pain, muscle fatigue, and leg/feet soreness.
- Heavy Lifting – Food inventories are typically delivered to the restaurant in large boxes and heavy food containers that should never be lifted by a single worker. Working in an unusual posture while lifting heavy objects can lead to muscle pain, nerve damage, strains, sprains, and injury to the shoulders, lower back, upper back, neck, hand, wrist, fingers, elbows, and forearms.
- Cuts and Lacerations – Chefs, line cooks, and food prep workers are susceptible to serious lacerations and cuts when using knives to perform their duties. It is essential to keep the edge of the knife razor sharp to minimize force used on the shoulders, elbows, forearm, wrist, and fingers. Servers and dishwashers are also susceptible to cuts that occur from broken dishware and glass. Workers should follow strict safety procedures when operating baking and slicing machines to ensure the safety guards remain in place.
- Repetitive Motion Injury – Spending months, years and decades working in the restaurant industry can lead to repetitive motion injury, especially for those prepping food and serving tables. Typically, repetitive tasks can cause considerable nerve damage in the worker's wrists, hands, and fingers that could lead to chronic injury, pain, and soreness.
- Slipping, Tripping and Falling – Restaurant workers are often exposed to slippery and wet floors caused by a lack of housekeeping, spilled liquids, and food droppings.
- Burns – The exposure to deep fryers, hot surfaces, and melted grease can cause severe burns that require immediate medical attention.
- Chemical Exposure – To maintain a sanitized environment, workers often use various maintenance and disinfecting chemicals. Any exposure to airborne fumes or direct contact with liquid chemicals on the skin could lead to serious irritation problems and respiratory issues.
- Biological Hazards – Restaurant workers are often exposed to various biological hazards including parasites, viruses, and bacteria that can cause severe sickness or disease.
- Assault – Without proper security measures, workplace violence could be a real concern during a robbery or when handling unruly customers.
Not every hazard is obvious. Many restaurant employees work long hours under stressful situations to ensure that the customer is satisfied and the business remains successful. Also, younger workers with less experience tend to be at a greater risk for serious work-related injuries. Often, there are inexperienced makes the worker reluctant to make a demand or ask the question and often assumes that they can perform a challenging task without the ability or training.
Restaurant Workers' Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment data of the previous year, there were 30,830 Restaurant Workers on the job in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Restaurant Workers in northeastern Illinois earned $13.03 per hour, or $27,090 annually, on average. These earning wages are slightly higher than the national averages. See Chart
Restaurant Worker Fatalities and Injuries
While most restaurant workers are injured on the job suffer cuts, lacerations, and injuries from slips and falls, some are fatally injured through violence in the workplace. Below is a small sampling of recent violence involving restaurant workers.
- Case 1: Atlanta, Georgia – In November 2017, A robbery at a local restaurant ended with the death of the manager. Others had been concerned that a lack of appropriate security led to the deadly robbery. A former employee stepped forward to say that the security at the restaurant had been a significant problem that he and the deceased manager had complained about to the business owners for some time. Immediately after the incident, the security guard on duty could not provide 911 an accurate physical address to send emergency medical responders and law enforcement officers to help.
- Case 2: Bowie, Maryland – In January 2017, an alleged disgruntled former employee killed three workers at a local bar and grill. The incident occurred in the early morning hours just after 2:00 AM. The alleged 40-year-old shooter who had previously worked at the Blue Sunday Bar and Grill as a bartender fled the scene after killing two employees. The third employee was transported to the local hospital where they succumbed to their injuries. The alleged suspect was spotted near a wooded area close to his home after he had shot himself twice. He suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.
- Case 3: Yonkers, New York – A Yonkers restaurant worker was killed on the job by a coworker who has been accused of stabbing the victim. Allegedly, the 22-year-old employee stabbed his 54-year-old coworker with a kitchen knife. Law enforcement responded to the reported stabbing and EMT transported the victim to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Supposedly, the incident involved a dispute between the men while they were on the job at the restaurant. The victim was stabbed in the abdomen. The alleged suspect remained at the scene and is now under arrest.
- Case 4: Manchester, Connecticut – A 36-year-old restaurant worker was shot while at work and succumbed to his injuries. Two restaurant coworkers have been charged with the man's death. Arrest warrant documents reveal that multiple witnesses told law enforcement that the alleged shooter worked at the restaurant as a kitchen manager, who allegedly shot the fried Cook in the restaurant kitchen. The suspect is in custody after stating to family members that he shot his employee because "is always disrespecting him and his girl at work."
- Case 5: Boston, Massachusetts – OSHA has cited a South Boston seafood restaurant where an employee had died from an ammonia leak. A 5400-gallon tank of ammonia and had earlier leaks at the restaurant in previous years. Authorities said that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) had cited the facility before with more than a dozen violations back in 2009.
- Case 6: Los Angeles County, California – A La Puente woman was killed while leaving her job at an Industry Restaurant. The 57-year-old suspect who was related to the 27-year-old victim drove away from the scene in a minivan after allegedly fatally shooting the woman on September 4, 2017, and has not been captured yet.
Staying Safe at Work
There are numerous steps that every employee and manager can take to minimize the potential risk of working in a restaurant setting to the benefits of all workers, customers and guests. The steps include:
- Preventing a Slip and Fall Accident – Maintaining clean floors in an uncluttered environment in treating the surface with non-resisting coatings can minimize slip and fall accidents. Using optimal cleaning supplies with slip-resistant properties and grease removal chemicals can also help, as can using "wet floor" and "caution" signs placed on the slippery surface until the area has dried.
- Wearing the Appropriate Attire – Most injuries on the job site are the result of inappropriate attire and malfunctioning equipment in the kitchen. Many accidents can be avoided by wearing long sleeves in the kitchen area to reduce exposure to fire and hot surfaces. Wearing skid resistant, closed toed shoes can also minimize falls caused by slipping on wet or slick surfaces.
- Keeping Knives Sharp – A sharp knife is far easier to control then dull knives because they require less force to function properly. Consider using knives that have secure handles with razor-sharp edges that are continually sharpened. Limit the use of electric slicers to employees who been trained on how to use the slicing machine guard appropriately and safely.
- Preventing Burns – Every employee at the restaurant should be trained on how to identify potential burn hazards at work. Part of the training should include protective measures including easy access to pot holders, lower water heater temperatures to eliminate scalding, and the installation of temperature and pressure relief valve safety devices to reduce the possibility of an explosion. The employee should also be trained on how to properly handle the fryers' grease using PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
- Preventing Fires – The restaurant should have established housekeeping rules that enforce policies that prevent kitchen fires. Some of these rules would include:
- Never leave hot stoves with heated surfaces or open flames unattended
- Ensure that every three-pronged corded appliance is plugged into the appropriate receptacle.
- Never overload an electrical outlet
- Never use equipment or appliances that generate sparks or smoke
- Never use appliances with bent prongs or frayed electrical cords
In addition to the safety measures above, the employee should store cleaning chemicals in a separate area away from any heat source or food products. Additionally, the employee should be taught to not mixed chemicals that could cause serious, life-threatening reactions. Chemicals should always be used only in areas that are well ventilated and stored in the appropriate container.
How to Obtain Compensation to Ensure Your Financial Recovery
Our lawyers help injured Restaurant Workers recover financial compensation through civil lawsuits and the IL Worker's Compensation Act. Call Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) today to schedule a Free Case Review and discuss filing a claim.
Our occupational injury attorneys can assist your family through this challenging time. Our legal team understands the complex Illinois Worker's Compensation system and can ensure that you will receive the most benefits available. Let us handle your case while you recover.
As your legal representative, our lawyers can ensure that all documents are filed in the appropriate Illinois county courthouse before the state statute of limitations expires. Additionally, our law firm can build your case, gather evidence and negotiate an out of court settlement on your behalf or take your lawsuit to trial.
We accept every compensation claim through contingency fee arrangements. Your legal fees are paid only if our attorneys successfully resolve your compensation case through a jury trial award or negotiate out of court settlement on your behalf. This agreement ensures you owe us nothing if we do not win!