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Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Restaurants: keep your business recovery on track with this safety tip

“If you own or manage a restaurant, your business has suffered through the pandemic, and is striving to recover despite a tough hiring environment,” says Tova Larsen, WSPS Consultant. “The last thing you need is to have incidents and injuries derail your efforts to get back on track.”

Here’s a tip: Ontario’s internal responsibility system (IRS) is your restaurant’s secret weapon for reducing injuries and related costs and retaining valuable staff. But inspection initiatives by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development (MLITSD) reveal that many restaurants aren’t taking advantage of it. “Some restaurants lack awareness of the IRS and their legal health and safety responsibilities,” says Tova.

Injuries and fines in Ontario restaurants: What the inspectors found

Ontario restaurants represent 6 per cent of the provincial employment total, with more than 466,000 Ontarians employed in food and beverage service. But they represent, disproportionately, 7 per cent of lost-time injuries.

In 2022 alone, 22 restaurant workers were critically injured, and 607 complaints were reported to the Ministry regarding food and beverage service workplaces. Additionally, MLITSD Inspectors conducted 2,340 field visits to restaurants and issued 3,151 orders and requirements.

The most frequent orders were for an employer’s failure to meet the general requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), including failing to have a written health and safety policy and program and failing to post mandatory postings and required policies in the workplace. “These critical first steps must be in place before you can take advantage of the IRS to curb injuries,” notes Tova.

What is internal responsibility and what does it mean for your business?

“There are two core principles behind the IRS,” says Tova. The first is to solve your health and safety complaints and concerns internally and proactively – don’t wait for the MLITSD to issue orders after an incident or during an inspection. The second is to work together – owners, managers, and frontline staff – to make it happen.”

Under the IRS, every workplace party has a role to play in keeping the workplace safe:

  • Employers must ensure equipment is maintained in good condition and is safe to use, a safety policy and programs are established, competent supervision is provided, workers are trained, and every reasonable precaution is taken to protect workers.
  • Supervisors must ensure safety equipment and clothing are used, safety procedures are followed, workers are advised of hazards, and every precaution reasonable is taken to protect workers.
  • Workers must report hazards to the employer or supervisor, use or wear protective equipment, follow safety procedures and practices, and refrain from removing safety devices.

With everyone’s duties clearly laid out and understood, the internal responsibility system can be used to tackle workplace hazards and prevent accidents and injuries. Tova describes how it would work in an actual restaurant kitchen:

  • Simone works in the bar area. She notices there’s a lot of water seeping from the dishwasher onto the floor. She knows this can lead to slip, trip and fall injuries. Simone reports this to her manager, Ricardo.
  • Ricardo looks at the dishwasher and notices a hose is cracked and leaking. He tries to minimize risk temporarily by putting a bucket under the hose, ensures the water is mopped up, and notifies the owner.
  • The owner calls a service company immediately and authorizes the repair.
  • Simone’s work area is now safe again.

“Everyone participated. Everyone communicated. Everyone worked together to make safety happen,” says Tova.

How WSPS can help



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The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.

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