Health and Safety is a paramount concern for many restaurant organizations. With retention being at an all time low across many businesses, employers are looking for ways to retain employees longer. Keeping employees safe from injury and fatigue is one way to keep the high costs of recruitment at bay. Many employers don’t always know where to start when it comes to preventing injuries. To make sure employers implement effective solutions there needs to be an effective way to tabulate and analyze the physical demands of a job. This will boost the success rate of interventions dramatically.
“Many employers don’t always know where to start when it comes to preventing repetitive strain injuries. To make sure employers implement effective solutions there needs to be an effective way to tabulate and analyze the physical demands of a job. This will boost the success rate of interventions dramatically. “
Fortunately, that framework exists and it is called a physical/job demands analysis (JDA). It is a recognized frame work by safety organizations to break down all the physical demands of a job. This can then be used to prevent problems before they happen and help employees return to work faster. These analyses are best done by a trained occupational health specialist. Kinesiologists are great example of professionals who are trained in these solutions.
Let’s look at a few examples of what a JDA can do for your business.
1) Preventing repetitive strain injuries and overuse injuries.
Every job that exists is going to have tasks that may increase the risk of injury. Many injuries are caused by the workstation set-up or the movement patterns the employee uses. The JDA is going to give a detailed breakdown of every movement the employee will make during a task. Focusing on body positions, movements used, force required, hand grips, and the frequency of tasks. This analysis can then be used to make effective changes specific to the business. But we need the raw data of a JDA to do that effectively.
Example: Lifting a bag of flour.
Let’s say you had a JDA completed and it was found that your employees are lifting a 44lb bag of flour from floor to waist 5 times a day at a height of 100cm. The specialist can then use these values to find out if this lift creates increased risk of injury. The task can then be modified to lower the risk of injury to function within safe levels.
Without having all the variables, it is hard to determine if a lift is unsafe. For argument’s sake, it was found that lifting the 44lb bag of flour placed employees at a higher risk of injury. We can then do a few simple changes to make this task safer. We could do any of the following things:
Reduce the distance the object needs to be lifted to create less strain on the lower back
Reduce the weight transporting flour by transferring it into a smaller container
Bring a dolly or cart to the work space so that the flour can be moved with less strain.
All of these fixes could only be found if the physical demands analysis had been done. Otherwise solutions could not be specific to the workplace and probably a waste of money. You can’t prevent a problem if you don’t have the data to make an effective decision.
2) Getting injured employees back to work faster.
An injured employee on compensation from the WSIB will eventually need to return to work. This means a breakdown of the job demands will need to exist so that it can be determined if they are safe to return to work. A JDA speeds up this process because the return to work specialist can read the report and determine with a medical team if the job tasks are suitable for the returning employee. If the JDA does not exist the employer may be requested to have one created. Needing to have a JDA done on short notice will cost more money than having one on file ahead of time.
Example: Returning chef with low back injury
Your sous chef was injured with a low back injury at work. The WSIB has been paying compensation to the employee and now it may be possible for them to return to work. The JDA states that during prep work the employee will need to lift a 25lb box of butter. The employee can only lift 20lbs safely and the 25lb lift is the only lift of that nature the employee will do. The RTW specialist will recommend the employee return to work on modified duties that are productive to the employer. A plan can be made to make sure the employee is not at risk while at work. A different employee will move the box of butter and the returning employee will do all other required duties for their job.
3) Better Recruitment Strategies
It costs a restaurant around $5000 each time they need to recruit a new employee. Having a JDA completed will make sure you have a better idea of what you need from a successful applicant. If you know how much an employee needs to lift throughout the day you can put this on job postings to make sure applicants know what they are getting into. Recruiters will screen applicants better and bring people forward who can physically do the job.
Example: Recruiting for 50lbs of lifting
You have to recruit a new baker and you don’t know how much lifting the job requires. You estimate it and say the employees need to be able to lift at maximum 30lbs frequently at work. The actual weight is 50lbs and all your new hires quit soon after because the job is too hard. Or worse a new applicant gets injured and they are now on workers compensation. You will have to hire all over again and you run the risk of increasing your insurance premiums from the WSIB.
In conclusion, in an industry where margins are tight and retention is low. Food service is primed to save money by getting ahead of problems. Protect your workers and your business by having a JDA completed for your workplace.