Slips, trips and falls are far too common in restaurants – even though they are largely preventable. They can impact employees, customers, and your bottom line, says WSPS Consultant Tova Larsen. “If an employee is hurt, your WSIB costs go up, and you may lose a valuable worker. If a patron is hurt, you could face liability issues.”
Ministry cracking down
Slips, trips and fall hazards in restaurants are on the radar of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development (MLITSD). The top two orders it issued during a 2022 inspection initiative related to these two requirements in the Industrial Establishments Regulation (Regulation 851):
a floor or working surface used by workers shall be kept free of obstructions, hazards, and accumulations of refuse, snow or ice (section 11(a))
a floor or work surface used by any worker shall not have any finish or protective material on it that is likely to make the surface slippery (section 11(b))
Both requirements are designed to help reduce slips, trips, and falls in restaurants. But what exactly do restaurants need to do to ensure they are in compliance? And what other steps can they take to lower risks for employees and patrons? Tova offers 8 tips.
8 tips to prevent slips, trips and falls
Choose proper flooring. Restaurants often select flooring based on aesthetics, but it’s important to think about safety before purchasing. “Shiny usually means slippery,” says Tova. “Instead, choose flooring with an impervious matte surface and grippy texture that’s easy to clean.”
Be careful with waxes and polishes. “If you are going to polish or wax, be absolutely sure it’s not going to increase slip, trip and fall risks,” says Tova. “Even if the supplier label says the wax or polish is non-slip, test an area before coating the entire floor.”
Clean floors effectively. There are two parts to this, says Tova.
First, don’t just swipe the mop over the floor. “That’s wiping, not cleaning.” To significantly amplify your cleaning efforts, invest in a good stiff scrub brush with a long handle.
Second, use an automated bucket mixing station to ensure the amount of detergent you use is exactly right. “There’s a magic line between using not enough detergent and using too much,” notes Tova. “If there’s not enough, you won’t get all the grease and oil off the floor. If there’s too much, it will leave a slippery, soapy film on the surface.”
Manage your trash. “Make sure you don’t have accumulations of food scraps or packaging materials,” advises Tova. “Change garbage bags and empty compost on a regular basis so it won’t end up on the floor.”
Clean up spills immediately and thoroughly. It can be tempting in the heart of dinner service to just leave a spill or give it a quick wipe in order to get food to patrons in a timely manner, says Tova. However, the consequences of not doing a proper cleaning could have an impact on your business operations.
“If someone actually does slip or fall and is critically injured, your kitchen will shut down for investigation until MLITSD inspectors authorize you to resume business. The few extra minutes it takes to clean up a spill properly could prevent the loss of an entire night’s service.”
Don’t forget outdoor surfaces, front and back, especially in winter. Most restaurants remember to clean the customer-facing entrance but don’t forget about the back where employees go to dump trash and garbage. “Spilled grease is a year-round hazard that doubles when mixed with snow and ice,” says Tova. In winter, shovel and salt front and back, and degrease the back area. Keep salt, grit and shovels on hand at both entrances.
Make sure your ventilation system is well maintained. While people don’t tend to think of their ventilation system as a part of their slips, trips and falls protocol, it is. “If the ventilation is poor, vapourized and misted oils coming off grills and deep fryers can settle on floors, leaving a fine layer of slippery oil,” explains Tova.
Use appropriately sized mats. In wet zones like dish pits, you should be using rubber mats that allow water to drain through. “Ensure the floor drain is working and has a cover, and that the mat fills the entire space.”
The same thing applies to mats used in bar areas and at the front door. “Edges of mats can become trip hazards when they curl up. The best mats are large enough to fit the area, with edges safely tucked into corners.”
How WSPS can help
Connect with a WSPS consultant for help understanding your slip, trip and fall risks, building or enhancing safety policies and programs or to access flexible training solutions for your employees, supervisors, and managers.
Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls (1 hour, eCourse)
Health & Safety Representative (HSR) Basic Training (8 hours, eCourse)
Worker Health and Safety Certificate (1 hour, eCourse)
Supervisor Health and Safety Training (1 hour, eCourse)
Slips, Trips and Falls (article)