Chef cutting vegetables.

As the market for ethnic-inspired foods and farm-to-table mealscontinues to grow, many restaurant operators are experimentingwith locally sourced products, plant-forward cuisine, andsustainable seafood. But in adapting to meet evolving consumertastes, restaurants may find it difficult to stay on top of theirevolving risks.

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Related: 6 keys to adjusting food-related restaurantclaims

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According to Marsh's 2017 Restaurant Loss Cost TrendsReport, nearly one-quarter (24%) of all restaurant workers' compensation claims in 2016 were fromcuts, punctures and scrapes. That made them the most frequentsource of injury, and represented a substantial increase from 2012,when cuts, punctures and scrapes represented 15% of all workers'compensation claims.

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For restaurants, at least some cuts in the workplace areinevitable. But restaurants can take preventive measures to protectstaff and reduce the frequency and severity of cut injuries.

Industry shifts

It's a good time to be in the restaurant industry. Restaurant sales in 2017 were projected to reach$800 billion, and the industry is expected to create 1.6million new jobs by 2027.

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But the industry is also facing some significant shifts. To growand meet customer demands, restaurant employees are handling freshfoods and ingredients like never before. And restaurant footprintsand back-of-house layouts have generally not changed as productionhas ramped up, which has sometimes created cramped environments foremployees. Both of these trends are likely contributing to highercutting injury rates.

Better knife skills

It's vital that you develop a strong workplace safety programthat specifically addresses safe cutting practices. Even the mostseasoned chefs and butchers can occasionally cut themselves, butmost cuts and other knife injuries are experienced by employeeswith broader job responsibilities — for example, line and prepcooks, bartenders, and dishwashers.

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Related: Tips to reduce workers' comp claims inrestaurants

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With the exception of drivers and others who do not need tohandle knives, all employees should be trained on proper knifetechniques. Specifically, employees should be trained to:

  • Always wear cut gloves when cutting, even if it's only for afew minutes.
  • Safely store knives when not in use.
  • Safely wash knives.

Restaurant managers and safety personnel should also ensure thatknives are regularly sharpened and that enough cut gloves areavailable — in appropriate sizes — for all employees.

Strategic considerations

Restaurants should also think more broadly. Many restaurantshave expanded their menus and increased the volume of food goingthrough their kitchens, which has allowed them to increase sales.But because their layouts haven't changed, there's less counterspace and room to slice and dice ingredients.

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While changing layouts is not as simple as improving safetytraining, especially considering long-term lease agreements and thehigh cost of renovations, it's important that management considerthe impact of industry trends on restaurant workplaces.

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Think creatively about storage practices, technology, andergonomics in order to balance opportunities for increasedproductivity with the need to maintain safe workplaces and keepinjury rates down.

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Related: 4 steps to creating a saferworkplace

John Logan is the managing director and national restaurant practice leader at Marsh. This article first appeared on Marsh.com and is reprinted here with permission.

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