Recent surveys carried out both in North America and Europe clearly demonstrate both the demographic of commercial kitchen workers and the prevalence of certain injuries that they unfortunately all too frequently sustain. Nearly half of the accidents occur to employees under the age of 25 reflecting the low-wage nature of much of this sector and the fact that extensive recruitment of students from the age of sixteen and upwards takes place.
Accidents recorded under UK regulation RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995) for the year 2010-11, revealed, for example, that there were 621 major injuries in kitchen environments and 3773 injuries which were actually serious enough to keep employees away from work for more than three days. That’s approximately 13 people getting injured daily in commercial kitchens across the UK – or is it? The Health and Safety Executive conservatively estimate that only just over half of all injuries actually get reported at all, so let’s double all the above numbers and see where we are. We are not where we want to be, that’s for sure and every statistic represents people whose lives have been changed for ever due to having accidents generally caused by their employer’s negligence.
Half the injuries sustained are apparently musculoskeletal, due to slips, trips and falls and manual handling/lifting accidents and of those, half are hand injuries. The next most prevalent reason for kitchen workers taking sickness absence is work related contact irritant dermatitis usually caused by a lack of hand protection and lengthy periods undertaking ‘wet work’. The Health and Safety Executive considers that exposing hands to water or water/chemical mixes for more than 2 hours during a shift presents a risk and falls under The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. Occupational dermatitis is a good example of the diseases which are linked with occupational exposure in the workplace to specified hazards and which must be reported to the HSE under RIDDOR.
Finally, the last sizeable category of accidents is knife-related. They result in injuries ranging from relatively minor, shallow cuts to the complete severing of fingers. The prevalence of this category of accident is of course largely to do with the high number of knives used and cutting operations carried out in a commercial kitchen and an unawareness of or disregard for the risks involved in using and working around extremely sharp knives by the employer or employee – or both.
When you are sitting enjoying a delicious meal in a rated restaurant you don’t want to consider that one of the kitchen staff might have been injured in the course of preparing your dish, but when you are aware of the accident statistics that possibility can play on your mind and perhaps ruin and perfectly good evening.
Tim Bishop is senior partner of specialist personal injury solicitors, Bonallack and Bishop. To learn more about how to make a work accident claim, visit their specialist websites at http://www.how-to-claim-compensation.co.uk or or call them directly for free initial legal advice on FREEPHONE 0800 1404544.