How Multi-Site Restaurant Operations Can Benefit from Behavior-Based Safety

By BKS Commercial Risk Advisors

waiter serving in motion at restaurant learning behavior based safety

Restaurant safety is critical in keeping employees and patrons safe, reducing risk, protecting a business’s cash flow, and attracting and retaining talent. As such, safety should be an integral component of a comprehensive risk management program for restaurant owners and managers. In fact, the overall effectiveness of a safety program often depends on the approach or combination of methods taken to ensure the well-being of employees and guests. Two of the most effective ways to drive a thriving safety culture and program are a traditional approach to behavior-based safety (BBS – Behavior Based Safety) or an alternative behavior-based safety model. Restaurants can choose any combination of these two to improve their overall risk management and safety program.

Method 1: The Traditional BBS Approach

The traditional view of Behavior-Based Safety revolves around observing employees as they perform various job duties and the processes they employ to accomplish each task to determine where a specific hazard may lie. For example, monitoring and observing employees as they clean restaurant floors, use various equipment, wash dishes, lift supplies, etc. Each task is then broken down into individual components, and each component or task goes through a process where potential hazards for harm or injury are likely. Once the hazards are identified, a new process or procedure is developed to mitigate or eliminate those hazards. This process is often called a JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) or JSA (Job Safety Analysis). This new process, once trained and implemented, should reduce accidents and injuries. In order to verify implementation and success, a manager then observes the staff’s execution of each assigned task to ensure it’s appropriately performed by each individual. This is called Safety Observation.

While the traditional approach is useful in specific environments, results can often be mixed. Ultimately, with so many procedures and processes applied in great detail to every task, an operation could end up with a 500-page or so safety manual with an excessive amount of information for employees to memorize, internalize and follow. Just think about it: There can be anywhere from 50 to 100 different tasks to perform in a restaurant operation on any given day. This is a tall order for the staff to follow and for management to ensure that every procedure is being done precisely in the manner in which it was developed and written.

Method 2: Alternative Behavior-Based Approaches

Instead of creating a process and procedure for each task, an alternative approach can be taken, which is often a more effective behavior-based strategy. The alternative behavior-based strategy focuses on improving a restaurant staff’s behaviors by creating simple programs that are easy to internalize, remember, and follow. These simple programs utilize simple concepts that set specific behavioral expectations for employees to exhibit while performing regular job activities that are more likely to cause injuries or accidents. For example, to minimize slips/trips/falls incidents, which are the most common types of injuries in a restaurant from both a Workers Compensation and General Liability perspective, we can devise and implement a simple behavior-based driving program called ICE. ICE is broken down into three simple behavioral expectations that we can easily teach, internalize, execute, and observe. The three expectations are:

  • Inspect yourself and your work area
  • Clean your area if you notice any hazards
  • Evaluate/Eliminate the hazard; this may involve contacting the property owner or restaurant manager if the employee cannot take care of the issue

From a behavioral point of view, this serves as a simplified JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) process and helps increase the feeling of individual responsibility among employees. As a restaurant owner or manager, a simple process with simple expectations can streamline the traditional JHA process and be just as effective in preventing injuries from slips/trips/falls. Furthermore, simple programs like ICE, make it easy to conduct follow up safety observations to ensure that all employees are adhering to ICE expectations. Lastly, simple programs such as ICE eliminate the need to assess the numerous tasks associated with various jobs that have slip/trip/fall hazards.

A similar approach can be developed to prevent back injuries and other common injuries instead of the traditional BBS approach that requires multiple JHA’s of specific tasks that require step-by-step procedures. For example, the use of oil fryers in a restaurant would require particular processes to avoid severe burns and prevent fires. These processes and procedures would include temperature check requirements when frying, observing a cool-down period before oil
disposal, etc.

The Results are Measurable

The bottom line, a BBS approach based on observable behavioral expectations improves risk management outcomes, reduces the frequency and severity of claims, and improves cash flow. BKS Partners has been successful in helping restaurants with multiple locations implement this approach and garner best in class results. One of our clients, for example, was able to improve its cash flow by $215,000 through analytics and behavior-based safety practices. Specific behavior-based loss control practices were implemented to reduce the frequency of claims drivers, including injuries from slips/trips/falls, lacerations, and improper lifting techniques. Claim counts decreased by 92% since the implementation of BBS practices.

Final Thoughts: Incent Restaurant Managers to Operate a Safe Working Environment

To ensure restaurant managers are promoting the behavior-based approaches mentioned above, you should consider following specific procedures to minimize claims cost. An example could be reporting claims within 24 hours and accommodating a return-to-work program. Making safety a part of a manager’s performance and bonus structure can be a critical component of a safety program’s success. In addition, this can attract talent and help retain managers as they are incentivized not only on revenue but also on promoting a safe working environment, positively impacting the restaurant’s bottom line and contributing to a more efficient operation.

BKS Partners’ Hospitality Practice is available to analyze your risk management practices, claims history, and adequacy of insurance coverages. We will assess problem areas and develop solutions to deliver real value across your operations.

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