Following OSHA’s Lead

by Katie Lee

— By Troy Tepp —

What restaurants and retailers can learn from common OSHA violations to protect their employees and business.


Each October, OSHA — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — releases its annual review of the 10 most frequent violations of the past year. The list provides business owners and managers a reason to slow down and think about the safety of their business — even when the days get too busy.

Troy Tepp, Sentry Insurance

Rather than fear violations or surprise visits, business leaders should embrace the information as a tool that can help their teams mitigate potential risks that might be hiding in plain sight. After all, a safer business can reduce unexpected costs — a benefit that has become increasingly important as companies manage their workforce and bottom line.

Common OSHA Violations and Safety Risks: Restaurants

Slips, Trips & Falls

This category — and the hazards associated with it — cover one of the most common risks to businesses. Slips, trips and falls can happen anywhere and often result in injury. In the restaurant space, injuries can occur from tripping on poorly maintained surfaces, falling while moving products in and out of large coolers, or slipping in water or grease. Restaurant managers and employees should clean spills immediately and place signage in the area after cleaning. Don’t let water or grease collect on floors. It’s also important for every shift to remove clutter from walkways and discuss precautions for accepting and moving deliveries.

Electrical Wiring Methods, Components & Equipment

Many owners and managers who oversee restaurant operations likely entered the industry for their love of hospitality — not electrical work. Managing the electrical systems and equipment in a building shouldn’t be an afterthought though. Faulty wiring, poor maintenance, aging buildings or equipment that has served a few too many meals can lead to an accident or OSHA violation.

In a restaurant space where food prep occurs near water, employees also face electrocution risks. Likewise, older buildings or outdated equipment could cause an electrical problem leading to fire or shock injuries. Restaurant owners and managers should monitor the equipment, lighting and electrical sockets in their facility for problems and ensure they’re maintained regularly. Once a building is over 20 years old, take the time to have a comprehensive inspection of the electrical system by a qualified electrical contractor every 4 or 5 years. Keeping a log of past maintenance checks, upgrades and repairs can help protect against one of the most common facility risks.

Medical Services & First Aid

Anyone who’s worked in a restaurant knows how dangerous kitchen and bar areas can be. Cuts and burns from knives, glass and ovens come with the trade. OSHA has standards in place to ensure any person providing first aid to injured coworkers is trained in first-aid treatment. When the person providing first aid to injured coworkers is neither trained nor skilled in first aid, they can cause additional injuries and complications. Several staff members should be trained in first aid response to ensure all shifts are covered. Well-trained workers who understand first aid can help reduce the number — and severity — of accidents in a restaurant setting.

Hazardous Materials

All workplaces can benefit from improved communication — especially when it comes to hazardous materials. OSHA has standards in place to ensure communication protocols are in place to help guide the safe handling, storage and use of hazardous materials. This often comes in the form of cleaning products in a restaurant setting. Injuries with hazardous materials can happen through general chemical exposure, inhalation or when they’re splashed in the eyes. Employees need to know what chemicals they’re using, how to apply cleaning and sanitation products properly, and which products cause a reaction when combined. This requires frequent and basic education on how to safely handle cleaning supplies and the actions to take if an accident happens.

Reporting & Recording Injuries

Businesses must record and report the details of any incident involving an employee injury. Depending on the severity, it may need to be reported to OSHA within a certain time. It’s important to note the difference between recordable and reportable incidents under OSHA. Recording an incident refers to tracking an injury or illness when it occurs on the job. Owners or managers need to complete and maintain forms and logs each time an injury occurs. Reporting an incident to OSHA is required when certain outcomes like severe injury or death occur following an accident at the business. The commonality of this violation proves more restaurants need to review and communicate their plan for recording and reporting injuries.

Common OSHA Violations & Safety Risks: Retailers

Slips, Trips & Falls

Like the restaurant industry, retail businesses often report slips, trips and falls. Spills, loose mats, rugs, stepladders, poor lighting and clutter can all cause injuries in a retail space. Retailers should make every effort to ensure aisles and storage rooms are clear of clutter and cleaned quickly following a spill. When floors are wet — from cleaning, weather or spills — signage should be in place to alert employees and customers.

Design & Construction Requirements: Exit Routes

Under these requirements, exits need to be clearly marked, clear of clutter and easily accessible so that employees and visitors can quickly leave the area. When an exit isn’t easy to access, people get trapped, which can cause panic and create further injury risk. It’s important for leaders to communicate exit routes with employees and ensure those areas are kept clear and visible. Owners, facility managers and employees should all have a clear understanding of emergency exits.

Material Handling

In retail, employees and vendors constantly store, move and handle inventory. In some cases, employees need to handle large or heavy products. OSHA notes several violations in this space due to poorly managed merchandise or storage. Stacks of poorly placed merchandise can easily fall and injure employees as they move through storage areas, and the same can happen to customers in larger stores that have a lot of products on open flooring areas. Bags, containers and bundles of products stored in tiers need to be sacked, blocked, interlocked and limited in height to avoid injuring employees.

Powered Industrial Trucks

Forklifts, trucks and other vehicles used in retail and storage spaces can cause significant injury when misused. A lack of training, cluttered passageways, load hazards, insufficient or incorrect maintenance, and pedestrian traffic can all cause injuries. Before employees use forklifts or related industrial trucks, they need to be properly trained on how to drive and load the vehicle. Other employees may work near or around industrial trucks as well. Drivers should communicate and alert those in the surrounding area when operating. Aisles and pathways also need to be kept free of clutter and clearly marked for pedestrians.

A Business’s Employees are its Greatest Asset — Protect Them

In light of recruitment and retention obstacles facing restaurants and retailers, it’s essential for business owners to view OSHA as a partner that can help improve workplace safety. Some insurers have loss prevention and safety teams that can help policyholders set up a risk management program for their business. If these risks raise any concerns, or simply serve as a reminder, use it as an opportunity to re-evaluate and reprioritize safety.

Proactive business owners can protect the health of their employees — and bottom line — while improving the overall safety of their company by following OSHA’s standards. For the most up-to-date regulations and interpretations of the rules, business owners and managers should visit OSHA’s website at or speak with a local expert to discuss questions specific to their business. Stay safe and stay dedicated.





— Troy Tepp is a director of safety services with Sentry Insurance. Sentry provides property, casualty and life insurance products to retailers, restaurants and other businesses. Learn more at


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