NIOSH Releases Food Services Safety Agenda

Comprehensive injury and illness prevention programs are recommended to reduce the risks for occupational injury, illness, and death in the food services industry.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently developed a National Services Agenda, which includes safety and health goals for the Food Services Industry. Groups such as employers, employee organizations, government agencies, and food services associations can build partnerships to implement these goals and help ensure that food services work environments are safe for all employees.

The food services industry employs nearly 9.5 million workers in the U.S. The industry has four major groups: full services restaurants, limited-service eating establishments, special food services, and drinking places. Approximately 80 percent of the 425,000 food services firms are small businesses that employ fewer than 20 people. Many youth workers obtain their first jobs in this industry.

Health and safety issues in food services include:

  • Sprains, strains, bruises, and contusions from slips, trips, and falls
  • Cuts and lacerations from knives and other tools
  • Heat burns from hot oil, steam, hot water, and hot surfaces
  • Ergonomic hazards from repetitive motion, bending, lifting, and pushing carts
  • Workplace violence and elevated homicide risks
  • Occupational stress due to workloads, limited rest breaks, and prolonged standing

In addition to the sources above, exposures to chemicals, biological materials, and smoke are prevalent in many food services facilities.

Small businesses may not have occupational safety and health professionals on staff, yet they can reduce injury and illness risks by obtaining safety and health information and adopting recommended practices. Most franchisors, trade associations, workers’ compensation insurance groups, and state health or labor departments are good resources for safety and health program materials. Comprehensive injury and illness prevention programs are recommended to reduce the risks for occupational injury, illness, and death.

Food service employers can:

  • Identify and evaluate hazards and adopt hazard controls and safe work practices to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • Lead a work group to address priority issues to help inform other employers and policy makers about hazards and interventions.
  • Assist in the design of an effective system to track occupational injuries and illnesses in the food services industry.
  • Represent a partner organization to work on a goal implementation plan.

The NORA Services Sector Council developed strategic goals for the Food Services Industry to address priority workplace safety and health issues. The Council plans to check progress and track accomplishments through 2016.

NORA’s goal is to:

  • Promote the development of comprehensive occupational safety and health programs for restaurants and other food service establishments.
  • Reduce the frequency of workplace violence events in restaurants, drinking establishments, and food delivery services.

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