Common injuries in hospitality and how to prevent them

For those working in the hospitality industry, a few bruises and cuts are an unavoidable part of the sector’s fast-paced nature. But when injuries are caused by a wholly preventable event, then the issue is not acceptable. An employer has a duty of care, and it is important that any workplace risks are controlled to the best of a company’s ability.

Between 2016/17, there were 434,000 accident at work cases that required up to seven days of absence; there were also 175,000 accidents that required more than seven days of absence. For the hospitality industry, while the work-related illness rate is lower than average, its work injury rate is higher than the norm.

In this article, we will highlight the best prevention methods for the most common hospitality injury causes.

Slips, trips and falls (29%)

Slips, trip and falls cause the most hospitality injuries. Accidents of this nature are the most common among non-fatal injuries to employees, accounting for 29% of the most common non-fatal accident kinds. It’s hardly surprising, given the nature of such accidents — nearly every workplace has the capacity to develop a slip or trip hazard! A spilled drink in the office, a curled rug corner in a shop, or something bigger like an oil or chemical spill in a factory. These things happen, but the problem arises when the spills and trip hazards aren’t addresses immediately, turning the risk into a cause. This is when an accident becomes a work accident, as a failure to follow or implement a process (i.e. the workplace is at fault for not having a necessary routine to address the spill or trip hazard before an accident materialised).

Injury prevention advice:

Help prevent slips, trips and falls with:

  • Signs to signal any recent spills
  • Adequate lighting
  • Signs for slippery areas
  • Danger tape to highlight any potential trip hazards, such as steps or uneven flooring
  • Non-slip footwear
  • A process in place that has spills tended to immediately

In the event of a fall:

You should take your time in getting back to your feet after falling. Only do so if you feel strong enough to.

Lifting/handling (22%)

Lifting and handling items can cause injuries — it is, in fact, the second most common cause. These injuries account for 22% of all non-fatal injuries in hospitality. Injuries from lifting and handling heavy items tend to revolve around muscle strains. Back pain, neck pain, arm pain, and leg pain can all result of a lifting or handling injury. These injuries usually occur over a stretch of time where you are frequently handling heavy goods, but it is possible to injure yourself from a one-off heavy item lifting situation. Your workplace ought to provide training for handling heavy goods, as well as relevant lifting apparatus where needed.

Injury prevention advice:

Reduce the risk of injury by:

  • Training on how to lift heavy goods
  • Asking for help with lifting heavy items
  • Using apparatus to help lifting, where available
    • If you think lifting equipment should be in place for a task, speak to your employer. Employees are often the best eyes and ears for potential risks!

In the event of a strain:

Use an ice pack on the injury every two to three hours for up to 20 minutes at a time. A compression bandage can help to support the injury too, and elevating the affected area is advised. Avoid heat, as this can aggravate swelling.

Struck by an object (10%)

Injuries caused by being struck by an object are the third most common. Such injuries can cause a varying degree of problems, from minor cuts and bruises to more serious results like concussion or even blindness. Items falling from a high shelf, moving loads with machinery, and dropping tools are all common causes of these accidents.

Injury prevention advice:

General prevention advice is to ensure:

  • Self-standing items are secured or stabled
  • When using machinery to move loads, such as when operating a pallet truck or trolley, stick to designated routes
  • Avoid working or moving under a moving load
  • Any objects that aren’t on ground level are secure
    • Following from this, be sure that these items won’t be easily knocked
    • Heavier items should be stored near the ground, and lighter items higher up.
  • Lifting apparatus is inspected to ensure everything is working prior to use

In the event you are struck by an object:

The first action is to stop any bleeding from the wound. Applying pressure with a clean, absorbent material will help with this. For more severe bleeding, raise the afflicted area: your arm or hand can be raised over your head, where lower limbs you should lie down and raise the limb above your heart. Clean the wound, cover it and seek medical help if the wound becomes infected.

In the event of concussion, head to accident and emergency. Signs of concussion include a persistent headache, dizziness, confusion and/or memory loss, vomiting or sickness, imbalance, mood swings, vision changes, and struggling to stay awake.

Fall from height (7%)

A fall from any height other than floor level causes 7% of hospitality injuries at work. Although falling from a height is the fourth most common non-fatal work accident, they are the third highest contributor to fatal injuries at 20%. Injuries from these sorts of accidents include broken limbs, fractures, bruises, concussion, and more. Health and Safety Executive conducted a study within the food and drinks sector of 150 falls from height. The most common places to fall from where ladders (40%), vehicles (17%), machinery (10%), platforms (10%), stairs (8%), roof (7%), scaffold (4%), warehouse racking (4%).

Injury prevention advice:

  • Ensure the type of ladder or scaffolding is correct for the job at hand
  • Do not overreach when on a ladder or scaffolding
  • Where possible, control points and work should be designed to take place on ground level where possible
  • Permanent safety features should be installed if working at a height is frequent
    • Steps, railing, etc.
  • Minimise the risk of falling from a ladder climbing slowly, and avoid sudden movements

In the event you fall from a height:

There are various severities of injury that can be caused from falling from a height. Depending on the severity of the injury, medical attention will likely be required for a fall from a height.

Acts of violence (7%)

Acts of violence cause 7% of workplace injuries for the hospitality sector. Unlike with the other accident causes in this article, it’s difficult to narrow down the resulting injury from this cause of workplace accident. Generally, employees who deal with face-to-face roles are at risk of violence, from customers or even other employees. The injury caused by acts of violence can vary wildly, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be prevented.

Injury prevention advice:

  • Informing your employer is a strong first step to having the matter addressed
  • Detailed records of previous incidents will help to identify patterns, causes, and areas of concern
  • Regular staff meetings can be effective in highlighting problems faced day-to-day at work
  • Physical security measures, such as CCTV and security locks
  • Wider counters can help protect staff in customer-facing roles

Some accidents are unavoidable. But the workplace ought to have measures in place to reduce the risk as much as feasible possible to protect its employees. There has been a downward trend in self-reported workplace non-fatal injuries in the lead up to 2010/11, but it hasn’t risen or dropped significantly in recent years. With the right prevention methods, these common workplace accidents can hopefully be prevented enough to see another decrease soon.