Slips and Falls: Are You Taking The Risks Seriously?

A jury verdict came in this week in a slip and fall case at a Popeyes restaurant. Looking at the published details of the case, it was interesting how much of the contesting of the case focused on the level of damages. This highlights a few things that restaurant operators need to keep in mind when planning their prevention efforts:

1. Any given slip and fall can result in a wide range of outcomes. The level of injuries isn’t always predictable by the nature of the fall itself. 

2. Minor falls can be just as instructive to hazard recognition and prevention efforts as major ones. We need good systems to use the information that comes our way.

3. It’s a combination of the way a facility is designed, the way it’s managed,and  how issues are identified and addressed that makes up the risk picture someone using a given walkway faces.

When was the last time you reviewed your procedures and practices?

Parking Lot Safety: It’s Three Dimensional – and More!

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As I was working on a set of safety management guidance materials for a large chain restaurant operation, I looked at what existing materials they had across their brands and regions. One interesting finding was that when it came to parking lot and parking area safety, is that sometimes only part of the picture was being addressed.

Here’s what I mean. Do a simple web search for “Parking Lot Safety” and see what sort of material comes up. You’ll see that sometimes the emphasis will vary but there are three different dimensions to safety in parking lots, sometimes not all addressed in preventative planning.

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Vehicular Safety is one dimension: preventing collisions in parking lots and on the way in and out.

Security is another dimension: Preventing crime and making parking areas less likely spots for criminals to target.

Pedestrian Safety is the third, protecting people as they walk in, through, and around parking areas.

The last one, pedestrian safety, has an additional aspect beyond the traditional idea of the people using the lot directly (hence the “and more” in the title of this article.) That added aspect is the protection of people who may be adjacent to a parking area, either on a walkway, at a building entrance, on a patio, or inside a nearby structure. Vehicle-into building crashes, or storefront crashes are the particular risk in question. Here’s an article from the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks’ “Development” magazine where I was interviewed about this topic. This aspect of parking area safety is receiving more attention all the time and is beginning to become the focus of risk management groups, consensus standards and legislative attention. The question of how to best protect people and property is getting regular media attention as well. This issue certainly qualifies as an emerging one, with new information about the nature of the risk and protective measures being developed regularly. Expect to see more and more focus on this issue over time.

More Restaurants Get This Key to Sanitation Wrong Than Get It Right…

Kitchen Pass in Restaurant

Horizontal Surfaces are Everywhere in Restaurants and They Need Care!

The goal of a safe and healthy restaurant operation when it comes to the condition of surfaces is for them to be consistently clean and sanitary throughout the operational day. Modern approaches have resulted in the mediocre operations get better, the poor ones stay the same, and some of the good ones to get worse. Why? Because of a change in sanitation approaches and regulations. What exactly is it that many restaurants get wrong?

Continue reading

News Flash: Hard, Shiny Floors are Slippery When Wet!

Shiny Floor

Yes, this is what a hard shiny floor looks like!

Yes, that’s right. Hard flooring surfaces with a glossy finish are slippery when wet. It’s 2014, and there are still no exceptions to that fact. Yet as I toured one of the more upscale locations of a large restaurant company that I was working with, the restroom floors were done up exquisitely in highly polished natural stone. The look was very refined, the gloss was practically blinding. And the floor was not well suited to the conditions it would face regularly. We are not talking a hallway like the hotel image featured above, we are talking inside a restroom!

Here’s a series of truths that shouldn’t be so hard to understand: Continue reading

Vehicle Into Building Crashes: A Longstanding Issue Emerging in Recognition and Understanding

I have been working with several groups in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries on the issue of vehicle-into-building crashes, also sometimes referred to as “storefront crashes.” This is about the accidental contact (or near contact) with or intrusion into buildings by vehicles, accidental versus intentional in nature. These incidents sometimes damage property, sometimes cause injuries. The outcomes may be severe.

The scope and impact of this issue is huge, but still not as recognized as it should be. Incidents continue to occur, with severe consequences to people and property. No unified standard of care, or regulatory framework has yet emerged, but work is underway in that regard. Thankfully, more attention is being given to this issue all the time. Here are two new articles of note that highlight the issue:

Risk Management Magazine on storefront crashes.

And another recent story on FairWarning.com, highlighting in particular how preventable many of these incidents are.

This issue it starting to receive some long overdue attention. Hopefully prevention approaches will soon become more widely understood and implemented.

Policy vs Reality: Sick Restaurant Employees

Restaruant worker with stuffy nose

“I’m Kayla and I’ll (cough) be your (cough) server today.”

An Awkward Moment

I knew I needed to ask the question, and I was quick with it when the server returned to my table. “Do you have a cold?” She had a look on her face like she’d been caught red-handed in something as she paused before answering. “Why, uh, no, no, I just have …allergies.” Unfortunately her obvious stuffy nose, and very productive-sounding throat clearing moments earlier at the waitress station (which was in easy hearing range for me, even though she might have thought otherwise) told a very different story. I acknowledged her answer with a nod, and watched as she set my beverage down and made a rapid retreat deep into the kitchen. About two minutes later she came back to the table and was barely there when she reinforced her earlier answer, in the least scratchy voice she could muster. “Allergies, I have allergies, not a cold, no, just allergies,” before rushing away again quickly.

Indications and Realities

Of course it is possible that she was indeed suffering from allergies, and not a cold, but given both her symptoms and her reactions, I wasn’t exactly reassured. The establishment that I was dining at that morning already had a few weak spots evident in the area of food safety and sanitation, which only contributed to my ultimate feeling of unease.  I had noticed the manager off in a different section of the counter area, busy discussing someone’s break coverage, but not really circulating around. I also noticed that my server seemed to be steering clear of the manager as much as possible.

Getting Serious

Most chain restaurant establishments have a policy about not coming to work sick. Hotels, retail establishments, institutional food service, and other public-contact jobs usually include this policy as well. It’s typically documented somewhere in the new hire materials or the employee handbook. I’d expect that the restaurant that I was in that morning had a similar policy. The issue comes down to whether it is taken seriously or not. If you’d like your guests to have confidence in the sanitation of your establishment, consider the following points:

  • When new hires are trained, how is your “not working sick” policy explained and emphasized?
    Aside from your handbook or training materials, what sort of visible reminders such as job aids or posters are present?
  • Do managers make a point of spending some time with each crew member each shift? (Note that this serves a much broader purpose that just understanding if someone is healthy or not!)
  • How serious are you about your policy? Are you unwilling to compromise on it when staffing is tight for other reasons?

And perhaps most significantly, how complete and effective is your policy about calling in sick? It is not an easy balance to strike to set a policy that considers the importance of good attendance and holds people accountable for that, while at the same time conveying an understanding that it is expected that you will not come to work sick.

Your Attendance Policy

I recall years ago, at one facility I was managing, having an employee call in sick, pleading for some consideration for his eclipsing the allotted number of absences and lates. His plea: “Yes, I’ve called in sick a bunch of times already this quarter, but this time I’m really sick!”

Setting and enforcing an attendance policy can be an involved and tricky discussion, but one thing you can do today is to consider just how clear you are on one non-negotiable in any business with public contact: “We don’t want you to come to work when you are sick. It is important for our customers that everyone understands and acts on that.” Training is important, but noticing what’s going on, and offering reminders and guidance is even more important.