The majority of the injury prevention efforts with Owner/Operators tend to focus on the Crew employees.  Overall, these employees have the highest number of claims throughout the year, along with the highest overall costs.  Looking at a sampling of 500 separate restaurant locations for a six month period proves this to be true. The graph to the right illustrates the total cost (blue bars), and the total number of claims (red line).  Crew members accounted for over 220 claims, and over $450,000 in total claims dollars. Maintenance employees accounted for 39 claims, and over $142,000 in claims dollars. The focus of the Owner/Operators should be on the Crew employees, but this should not be the only area of focus. When a deeper claims analysis is conducted, the picture starts to change.

The average cost per claim for a Crew employee is $2,027 versus $3,633 for a Maintenance employee. While the overall number of claims occurring in Maintenance is a fraction of those occurring with Crew employees,  one must take into account the total number of Maintenance employees versus the total number of Crew Members. Looking at the possibility of an injury between the Maintenance employees versus Management and Crew employees, the picture becomes clearer. For every claim suffered by a Crew employee, the Management employees will suffer nearly four claims, and a Maintenance category will experience 7.5 claims. This is illustrated in the second graph, with the red line.  The blue bars illustrate the average cost per claim.  The maintenance employees will also experience more severe claims resulting in higher claims dollars. Why do Maintenance employees have higher rate claims per employee? 

First, the Maintenance employee will perform multiple unrelated tasks inside and outside of the restaurant.  This includes unloading trucks, pulling out equipment, climbing on the roof, performing heavy cleaning, and working from ladders. These are tasks that the Crew and Manager’s do not normally perform.  In addition, the majority of the safety efforts focus on the Crew members.  The following questions should be considered regarding Maintenance employees:

  • Are Maintenance employees required to wear slip resistant shoes?  This should be a requirement because major slip and fall claims, and falls from elevations (the roof) have occurred with Maintenance employees.  One maintenance employee slipped in a cooler, suffering a claim that has resulted in over $12,000 in losses.
  • Are Maintenance employees trained in safe lifting techniques? Are they trained on proper storage of heavy items (on middle shelves, not bottom shelves)?  Are Maintenance employees trained to utilize lifts or assistance from a co-worker when a lift is too heavy?  One Maintenance employee suffered a hernia when lifting an object that was estimated to weigh 150lbs. Another suffered a torn rotator cuff lifting a similar weighted object.
  • Do Maintenance employees wear the proper personal protective equipment when performing hazardous tasks? If the maintenance employee is cleaning the fryer, then fryer gloves should be worn, along with face shields and other required equipment.  Also, on maintenance specific tasks where hand and power tools or chemicals are used, are specific requirements in place on what types of personal protective equipment to wear?
  • Is a lockout/tagout program in place to isolate power sources for equipment being worked on by a maintenance employee? This is  important as there will be many employees working in close quarters, and one may inadvertently throw a switch on a piece of equipment that is being serviced.
  • Maintenance employees may need to travel to from one location to another, or to the store for parts and equipment.  Have the maintenance employees been screened to ensure they have a clean driving record?  Are they coached to drive only when necessary?  Injuries from motor vehicle accidents are not the most common of, but for 2011, the most costly claim reported so far has been from a vehicle accident, at about $250,000.
  • Are maintenance employees also planning their tasks to avoid peak times when in high traffic areas?  If the task does need to be performed in a high traffic area during a peak time, does the maintenance employee take care to ensure that tools, equipment, and equipment parts do not present a trip hazard to other Crew members?
  • Do Maintenance employees attend safety meetings? Maintenance employees should attend safety meetings, and assist in the training, where possible.

Maintenance employees should be held to the same safety standard that is required of all employees.  Holding the Maintenance employee to the same standards as the rest of the store will assist in reducing the frequency and severity of claims, impact the bottom line of the restaurant, and ensure the Maintenance employee is able to return home to his or her family in the same condition as the day began.

Note – A sampling of 449 separate claims at separate 83 owner operators was conducted, with claims being broken out into management, crew, and maintenance categories.  Ratios of crew members to management, and maintenance employees will vary, with a baseline of 10% management employees, and 2% maintenance employees per location.