Preventing Injury and Illness to Service Workers in Tourism-Related Jobs – Part I: Slips, Trips, and Falls; Heat Stress

Service workers are at risk for injury and illness every day, whether they work as housekeeper, landscaper, kitchen staff or nurse, to name a few.   The best way to prevent injuries and illness is to go through a hazard analysis of your workplace which includes the building and the grounds outside of the property wherever employees may work.  This four part blogs series will cover the major areas that these types of service workers are at risk for and ways they can be prevented.

One of the major causes of workplace injuries is slips, trips, and falls.  In fact, slips, trips, and falls were the 2nd leading cause of worker death in 2000.  In 2004, 10% of slips, trips, and falls occur in the leisure and hospitality industry.  One of the big issues is unstable ladders.  It’s important to make sure that the ladder is setup in a safe way and secured properly.  Always make sure it is on level ground, if you have to put something underneath the ladder to make it level you should do so with caution.  If you have to lean the ladder up against a structure such as a tree, the ladder needs to be tied off and secured.  Also, if possible someone should hold the ladder for you just in case it becomes unstable.  The proper footwear must be worn at all times on a ladder.  No flip flops.  It is very important to inspect the ladder for damage.  If damage is found, put that ladder away and attach a sign to it making it obvious that the ladder is broken so no one will use it.  When you need a tool, for example a chainsaw, never carry it up a ladder with you.  Larger tools need to be tied off and hoisted up the ladder once you are secured at the top.  Walking on roofs with steep slopes or ones that are structurally unsound is another major risk in the slips, trips, and falls category.  Wearing the proper fall protection gear ensures safety.  Allowing for the basic roofers fall protection kit is a budget item worth the investment.  

Kitchen workers also have a great risk of slips, trips, and falls.  In 2002 for every 1000 workers, 34 hurt themselves bad enough from a slip, trip, or fall to need at least one day off from work.  Housekeepers and janitors can slip or fall when there is not enough grip between their footwear and the floor.  This occurs when floors have wet, waxed, or oily surfaces; a spill; loose rugs or mats; or snow and water brought in from the outside.  Use proper warning signs when there is a spill or a freshly waxed floor to avoid accidents.  Other hazards in kitchens include blocked vision, clutter, cables or cords strung out across the floor or not stowed properly, and a transition between two uneven surfaces.  Whenever possible do not walk around with your hands full or with an object that is so large that it blocks your vision.  Ask someone for help with carrying it or have them direct you and be your eyes to avoid hazards.  Extension cords should always be stowed properly in a way that they are up off the floor.  When extension cords are in use they should be out of a high traffic areas.  Use caution with vacuuming.

Another major risk of workplace injury and illness is heat stress.  Heat stress has a range of conditions like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, fainting, heat rash, and transient
heat fatigue.  These can result in minor discomfort all the way to death.  In 2005 four workers died from heat exposure in a period of only 3 weeks.  Heat stroke is when your body cannot regulate your core temperature and your body cannot release heat anymore and you stop sweating.  If not treated immediately, victims will die.  Heat exhaustion is when you are sweating a lot but you are not drinking enough water to replace the fluids.  This will lead to dizziness, headaches and nausea which will present a risk of falling or tripping and getting injured.

With kitchen workers the main heat stress hazard is getting burned by touching a hot metal surface, burner, or steam.  Working around hot stoves all day can cause you to become dizzy, faint, or fatigued; mix this with carrying a pot of boiling water or sharp knives and you have a recipe for disaster. 

Cold stress is another hazard for kitchen workers and occurs when you spend a significant amount of time in a freezer or cooler without the proper personal protective equipment like gloves and a jacket.  Cold stress can lead to hypothermia and frostbite.

Check back soon for Part II of our series, Workplace Violence.  And call United Alliance Services Corporation at (877) 399-1698 or visit our website for your workplace safety consultation and training needs.


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