Doing the Right Thing the Right Way: A Road Map to Workplace Safety

Doing the Right Thing the Right Way: A Road Map to Workplace Safety

By Paul Schlienz

No matter what you do, there is always the potential for something to go wrong in life and in work environments. Employers who accept this fact know that the smartest thing they can do is to have all the right safety measures in place to reduce the risk of injury.

Smart employers also know that risk reduction is not only important for employees’ safety, it is cost-effective.

“If employers stay focused on doing the right thing, the right way to keep everyone safe, ultimately, that’s going to reduce the frequency and cost of claims,” said Jessica Woods, RETRO executive accounts manager for the Washington Hospitality Association and the Washington Lodging Association. “If you reduce injuries, you reduce your experience factor, which reduces your hourly rate, and you’ll pay less each year to the state in workers’ comp insurance premiums.”


Know Your Risks

The first step in that all important risk reduction is to identify and understand the risks at your workplace. Unfortunately, as in most workplaces, there are specific hazards associated with work in the hospitality industry.

Slips, trips and falls, exposure to chemicals, burns and cuts/lacerations are just a few of the hazards of being at work.

“If you run a business, you should ask yourself if you have enough ‘wet floor’ signs on hand,” said Woods. “If you have a high usage of knives, you may have a high frequency of nicks and cuts that can be avoided by implementing a cut glove policy.”

Then there are the many young people who work in restaurants.

“Young people need different training,” said Elaine Fischer, spokesperson for the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). “They are often not as willing to speak up if they have questions or if they notice a problem.”

Lodging establishments have their own set of hazards.

“Some of the injuries we see at hotels include musculoskeletal strains from reaching and lifting things like mattresses and repetitive motion injuries,” Fischer said. Exposure to bodily fluids and blood borne pathogens is another risk for housekeeping staff.

Hotel maintenance staff members face different risks, such as accidents that can result from electrical work, sprains and strains from lifting and injury from falls, according to Fischer.

“We’ve also seen a lot of injuries with hotel maintenance staff members related to ladders,” Fischer added. “Ladders are a major cause of injuries in all industries. People can die.”


More than an Ounce of Prevention

No matter what kind of hospitality business you operate, you need to have a written Accident Prevention Program (APP) that identifies all possible hazards and spells out how to reduce the risks they present. Washington state law requires all employers to have a written APP (WAC 296-800-140), and employers must also make sure their APP is effective in practice. Ideally, it is the cornerstone of your safety program.

“Business owners are very busy,” said Woods. “Sometimes they don’t really know where to start when creating a safety program, and they may need help.”

This is where your Association comes into the picture. We have a Retrospective Rating (RETRO) program, and our RETRO Department partners with members enrolled in RETRO to help them create even safer workplaces. One of the many benefits of the program is assistance in tailoring an APP manual to meet the specific needs of a business. In addition to APP help for RETRO participants, the Association also has a Hospitality Workplace Safety upon request.

Strong APPs not only help protect your workers and your business, they also give you the peace of mind that you are doing everything possible to maintain a safe workplace, allowing you to focus on making your business grow. Not having an APP is not only a poor business decision, it leaves you open to significant violations/citations from L&I’s Department of Safety and Health (DOSH).

Failure to comply with the APP requirement or other workplace safety regulations can be expensive.

“If you want to stay in compliance with L&I, some of your top priorities should be hazardous chemical communication and training, eye wash stations, safety committee meetings and machine guarding,” said Woods. “You need to train your employees about the potential workplace hazards and give them the proper personal protective equipment, such as goggles and gloves, in order to avoid hazards. Erring on the side of caution is how you’re most protected.”

“If L&I inspects your workplace and finds that your employees do not have access to splash goggles when handling chemicals, you could be facing a fine of $3,000 or more depending on staff size,” Woods added. “You could also be fined an additional $3,000 if you fail to have a material safety data sheet for each hazardous chemical used in the workplace.”

Failure to have an eyewash station if required is another common violation that leads to significant citations.


The ROI of Training

Of course, one of the best ways to reduce on-the-job injuries, and L&I citations, is to invest in employee safety training and injury prevention. Again, your Association and the Education Foundation offer you the resources you need to comply with the law and help your workers avoid injury.

The Washington Hospitality Association Education Foundation has launched a comprehensive safety initiative for owners, managers and supervisors in the hospitality industry who are responsible for training their employees. As part of this, the Hospitality Workplace Safety Guide mentioned above is available in English, Spanish and Korean. It covers a range of topics including working around stoves, ovens and grills; fryer safety; working with knives, equipment with blades and other sharp items; slip, trip and fall prevention; safe lifting and carrying; housekeeping staff safety; and grounds, maintenance and workplace ergonomics.

The Education Foundation also offers courses such as a four-hour first aid/CPR course which provides all the necessary certifications to meet state requirements. Members can arrange for onsite classes for 10 or more students at a discounted price.

Another state requirement is specialized training for employees who may potentially become exposed to bloodborne pathogens, whether daily because of their profession or through applying first aid to another person in need. The Education Foundation offers a bloodborne pathogens course that meets this requirement. Incipient firefighting training, another Education Foundation course offering, provides employees with assessment tools to determine whether it is safe to fight a fire or evacuation is necessary.

“If you’re doing everything in your power to create a safe work environment for staff, you’ve trained your employees appropriately and are continuing it throughout the course of their employment, you’re going to reduce injuries and save money.” said Woods.

Don’t wait for an accident to happen. When you’re proactive about heightening safety awareness in your workplace, everybody wins.



Washington Hospitality Association RETRO Program:

Safety training through the Washington Hospitality Association Education Foundation:

Washington Department of Labor & Industries safety resources:

To request an APP (RETRO members) or a Hospitality Workplace Safety Guide, email


This article was adapted from the September 2016 issue of Washington Hospitality Magazine.


Rev. 2/3/17


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Hospitality Association here.

View the Table of Contents

Categories: HERO, Resources