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Workers’ compensation: the fast food industry and safety risks

We regularly talk about workers' compensation claims and on-the-job injuries such as back, neck and degenerative workplace injury. But there are many other potential physical risks to workers, and a new survey has been reported that focuses on one in particular: fast food restaurants. Specifically, a recent report discusses burns and a well-known restaurant's unsafe working conditions alleged by employees.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 28 workers in the restaurant chain have filed complaints to date, located in 19 different cities. An occupational safety legal advisor to the organization supporting the workers states the corporation and its franchisees are accused of putting corporate goals ahead of employee safety.

For example, it's reported that tasks such as cleaning a grill while it is still turned on instead of allowing the time it needs to cool down and manning shifts short of sufficient staff cause workers to suffer burns on a regular basis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 3.5 injuries per 100 full-time employees in 2013 shows the fast food industry exceeds the national average of 3.3 for all industries. It's also reported this may be higher since numbers are based on employer reporting.

In addition to suffering burns needing treatment, some complainants allege they often don't receive help from management when they are hurt. Other safety standards routinely ignored are the provision of grease aprons, proper hand protection and sufficient new employee training – all of which are supposed to lessen risk when dealing with hot grease and oil in particular. According to a Fast Food Workplace Safety survey released within the last few days, 79 percent of workers were burned in the past year, most multiple times.

OSHA is currently investigating the complaints. Inspectors have reportedly completed their review at six of the locations named thus far. They will reach their conclusion within the next six months. In the meantime, workers will continue to handle their day-to-day employment as necessary.

If a burn requires medical care or time off from work, employees must be treated properly by employers. A professional with experience in workers' compensation can review the circumstances, medical expenses and lost wages involved with work injuries to determine how best to protect an individual worker's rights going forward.

Source: Claims Journal, "McDonald’s Work Injury Complaints Filed on Hot Grease, Risky Conditions" Mar. 18, 2015

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