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The sun is still shining and as the afternoon crowd makes its way home, a crew of restaurant servers readies the patio for the evening and late-night guests. Feeling a little overwhelmed by the heat, one server, Chantel, advises her manager that she’s taking her earned rest break. She sits in the shade, enjoys a glass of water, and reapplies her sunscreen. After a busy day in the heat, a break from her feet is much needed, especially considering that she’s working a double shift today.
“Ready for round two?” asks Carlo, tonight’s bartender.
“You bet I am,” she replies, and hops back on her feet, rested and ready to get to back work.
This scenario is just a glimpse into the day or night (and sometimes both) of servers. With busy shifts and safety hazards that range from physical and ergonomic hazards like heat stress, noise, UV radiation, or standing or walking for long hours, to psychosocial ones, like stress, servers have a lot on their plate. Employers must assess the hazards that their servers may be exposed to daily and implement controls to reduce the risk and protect the health and safety of their workers.
Serving up worker safety
For workers like Chantel, they can find themselves working extra shifts under the hot sun or under the starry night – both scenarios posing their own respective risks. For example, if employers are short staffed, servers may be working longer hours or double shifts, and if work is outside on patios, there are other hazards to consider such as thermal stress.
Employers are responsible for ensuring not only the health and safety of their servers, but also the health and safety of guests. Employers must provide staff training to ensure workers fully understand techniques of the trade, like touching only the handles of flatware and utensils when setting the table, and never using their apron to dry their hands. This type of training can keep everyone healthy and safe.
As businesses continue to reopen, be sure to notify staff and patrons of any extra measures due to COVID-19 such as:
Zero tolerance for violence and harassment
A workplace violence and harassment prevention policy must be developed by the employer with a member of the health and safety committee or the health and safety representative. This policy will apply to management, staff, and anyone with a relationship with your business, including vendors and customers. It should clearly define what is meant by workplace violence, harassment, and bullying, and provide examples of unacceptable behaviour and working conditions. The policy should state your business’ stance on harassment and violence in the workplace and how workers will be protected and supported after reporting any incident. It should also state that all reports will be investigated with reference to the investigation protocol.
Make your workplace harassment and violence prevention policy known. Consider hanging posters indicating your workplace’s policy and zero tolerance for offenders on the patio, restrooms, kitchen, entryways, and more. This visual, along with concrete actions from management, shows commitment to the safety of your workers.
Server training can also include education around scenarios like how to stay safe while working alone or dealing with an angry customer. Restaurants can consider establishing a “code word” system that would alert other workers that help is needed. In addition, all staff must be familiar with emergency communication systems and all phones and passcodes must be kept in working order.
Establish safe closing procedures. Some jurisdictions have specific regulations about working alone. A person is “alone” at work when they cannot be seen or heard by another person. Servers may be working alone if they are the last person at the restaurant and are closing for the night. Workplaces should establish a check-in procedure or ensure that there are always two people to close.
Make sure staff know how to report and correct hazards, from slippery floors or a broken machine all the way to reporting incidents of harassment or violence.
Staff should be able to quickly and easily report incidents in confidence, without fear of reprisal. Staff must understand the steps for resolving or investigating incidents and complaints, and management must be supporting of the process.
It’s the employer’s job to make sure staff are always safe, no matter where or when they are working. For servers, that may be on a patio, at an event, in a bar, working early hours in the morning or closing out at the end of the night. There are many hazards involved, which is why training, hazard assessments and control measures, and a commitment to safety should be considered a “main course” versus a “side dish”. At the workplace, safety must always be on the menu.
Tips and Tools
The impact of falling objects or tools, and the risk of shock from contact with electrical hazards are very good reasons for making sure that your hard hat is in good working condition.
Some workplaces require everyone to wear a hard hat. The class and type of headwear will depend on your workplace’s risk assessment of the work being performed and on your jurisdiction’s legislation. Most legislation references CAN/CSA Standard Z94.1 Industrial protective headwear – performance, selection, care, and use for hard hat compliance. In the absence of a requirement, this standard is a good guidance document to follow.
Employers have a responsibility to train and educate workers on the proper selection, fit, maintenance, and use of all personal protective equipment.
Assemble and fit your hard hat according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The hard hat is properly secured when the headband fits comfortably and is tightened so that it’s unlikely to fall off your head when you bend forward and doesn’t shift when you turn your head side to side. Secure any liners within the hard hat. Bandanas, welder’s caps, and other accessories should only be worn if they do not affect the fit.
Cleaning and maintenance
Clean hard hats last longer and are more easily inspected for damage. Never use abrasives or petroleum-based products as they will weaken the plastic. The best cleaning product is a mild soap and warm water. Focus on the outer shell as well as the liner to remove any perspiration or oils.
When to replace
Inspect the shell and suspension daily before use, looking for cracks, dents, cuts or any other signs of damage and wear. Hard hats exposed to heat, sunlight, or chemicals may become chalky, dull, or less flexible. If any of these signs appear, do not use and replace the hard hat immediately. Headwear should also be replaced if it is struck by an object, even if there is no visible damage.
Check the manufacturer’s date codes on shells and suspensions to make sure they have not exceeded their maximum lifespan. For the shell, this is generally 5 years, though it may be less with heavy use. Replace the suspension at least every 12 months.
A hard hat can save you from serious injury if worn correctly and properly maintained. Inspecting, caring for, and knowing when it’s time to replace your hard hat should be part of your daily routine.
If you have any questions specific to your workplace, contact CCOHS’ free Safety InfoLine service for confidential, direct assistance.
To ensure organizations have quick and easy access to COVID-19 rapid tests, the Government of Canada, some provincial and territorial governments, and distribution partners are providing free rapid antigen tests for use in workplace screening initiatives.
Workplaces can help reduce the risk of outbreaks by regularly testing and screening their employees, because not everyone who has COVID-19 will show symptoms. Studies suggest that people without symptoms may cause up to 50% of COVID-19 transmission.
Rapid testing as a screening tool is another layer of protection against COVID-19. Rapid testing along with other public health measures, such as mask wearing, hand hygiene, physical distancing, proper ventilation, and vaccination together help to protect workers from the virus..
The Government of Canada is providing COVID-19 test kits directly to larger organizations that want tests for their workplace screening initiatives. These rapid tests are free and can be requested online.
Small and medium-sized businesses and organizations can also access rapid tests through their provincial/territorial government, pharmacies and chambers of commerce. Non-profit, charitable and Indigenous community organizations can request rapid tests through the Canadian Red Cross.
CCOHS releases new podcasts each month to help you stay current and informed on workplace health, safety, and well-being in Canada.
New Podcast: Workplace Refreshers to Prevent Dehydration
No matter the season or type of work, if staff don't drink enough fluids to replace what is lost in the day, they can become dehydrated. Just a small drop can cause a loss of energy, with severe dehydration being a medical emergency. Learn more about keeping workers safe, including tips for recognition and prevention.
Podcast runs 6:08 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Podcast: Keeping Workers Safe When Working From Heights
There’s no escaping the fact that working at heights is risky. Every year, workers die or are injured as a result of falling from ladders, scaffolds, roofs or other elevations. In this episode, CCOHS shares steps employers and workers can take to minimize the risk and help prevent falls and the injuries that go along with them.
Podcast runs 5:12 minutes. Listen to the podcast now
Occupational health and safety laws are always evolving. This month’s highlights include repeals and amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act in British Columbia and New Brunswick, Occupational Health and Safety Regulations in Nunavut, and the Environmental Quality Act in Quebec.
Firefighters' Occupational Disease Regulations (Workers' Compensation Act): B.C. Reg. 89/2021 repeals and replaces Section 2 Prescribed occupational diseases, and amends referenced clauses in Sections 3 and 4.
Workers' Compensation Act: S.N.B. 2020, c. 29, s. 118 repeals and replaces Section 71 and the heading preceding it with “Enforcement of lien under Construction Remedies Act”.
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Safety Act): R-003-2021 amends multiple sections throughout document.
Environment Quality Act: S.Q. 2021, c. 5 and 2021, c. 7 replaces wording in multiple sections and adds several new sections.
For more information regarding recent regulatory changes CCOHS offers a paid subscription service, Canadian enviroOSH Legislation plus Standards, that provides a collection of all the health, safety and environmental legislation you need in one location.
If you are a woman enrolled in a post-secondary occupational health and safety program, you may be eligible for the CCOHS Chad Bradley Scholarship.
Now in its second year, the $3,000 award is open to women enrolled in either a full- or part-time program leading to an occupational health and safety designation from an accredited college or university in Canada. You are encouraged to apply online and will be required to submit a 500-800 word essay detailing why you are pursuing an education in occupational health and safety; your motivation and inspiration; what and how you expect to contribute to the field and/or safe work; and other achievements and activities that demonstrate a commitment to and involvement in your community, workplace, or school.
The scholarship was established by CCOHS' Council of Governors to honour the memory of former governor Catherine (Chad) Bradley and pay tribute to her efforts as a leader in health and safety. The scholarship is intended to inspire and encourage women across Canada to pursue careers in the male-dominated occupational health and safety field.
The entry deadline for the Chad Bradley Scholarship Award is August 31, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. EDT and winners will be announced in the fall of 2021.
Learn more about Chad Bradley as well as full details about the scholarship and how to apply: www.ccohs.ca/scholarships.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
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