Restaurant Safety: Common Back-of-the-House Hazards

When a family walks in and sits down to enjoy an amazing meal at your restaurant they don’t get to see all of the behind-the-scenes action taking place that makes it all possible. With all of that action comes risks that must be properly controlled to keep the service on track for success.

Many hazards exist but let’s focus on two key back-of-the-house hazards.

  1. Slips, Trips & Falls
  2. Musculoskeletal Injuries

Slips, trips and falls are the most common injury we see in back of the house operations and while musculoskeletal injuries are not quite as common, they are just as costly (we’ll cover that more later).

A Costly Back-of-the-House Hazard: Slips, Trips, & Falls

Slip, trip and fall incidents are the number one workers compensation injury we see in the restaurant industry. A fall not only slows down service when it happens, but it sidetracks supervisory staff from regular tasks, interrupts the flow of kitchen operations, may put one of your valued staff members out of commission, and ultimately cuts into your bottom line. 

Read: ‘Mitigating Slips & Fall Risks” [Whitepaper].

Controls Your Restaurant Can Implement to Mitigate Slips, Trips & Falls

Below are a couple basic controls that will help keep your staff on their feet and service to your customers on track.

  • Wear non-slip footwear.
    Non-slip footwear is one of the most basic and effective things you can do to prevent back-of-the-house slip, trip and falls. Non-slip footwear has specially designed soles to improve the coefficient of friction, which reduces the likelihood of slippage. Non-slip shoes can be found at most big box stores and shoe stores at a very reasonable price.  Learn more: ‘Slip-Resistant Shoes for Employees.
  • Correct rubber mat placement.
    Slip and fall prevention doesn’t stop with footwear. Rubber mats also play a huge role in slip and fall prevention. The cooking line is known for debris and spills during rush hours, but we also have to think about areas like the prep stations and dishwashing areas, where floors can get wet and become hazardous. Quality rubber mats in all of these areas can help control the risk of a slip and fall. It is important to make sure these are quality commercial grade rubber mats that are designed for use in the back of the house environment. Make sure the mats are regularly cleaned and well maintained, and discarded or replaced when they are damaged. More information about floor mat placement and maintenance in all areas of the business can be found in our blog post, ‘Floor Safety Basics: Floor Mat Placement Procedures & Maintenance.’ 

Musculoskeletal Injuries & Risks Explained

Another, often overlooked, source of kitchen staff injury is musculoskeletal injuries, commonly seen as back strains or muscle pulls. Kitchen staff are used to working at a rapid pace and, oftentimes, are focused on the task at hand and not on what or how they are lifting it. Something as simple as taking the garbage to the dumpster can be a source of injury that puts one of your valuable employees on the sideline for just a few hours or for many weeks. Providing some basic lifting and back safety policies and training can help prevent an unnecessary injury. The staff needs to know that it is okay to say, “This is heavy, I need help with this.” Team lifting also should be a common practice for any object too heavy for one person to lift comfortably. There are even mechanical devices made to lift garbage bags into commercial dumpsters to keep the staff from having to lift and throw the bags over the top. A mechanical device may be a bit of an investment, but if it prevents one employee injury then the return on the investment is clearly a win for everyone.

Proper Lifting Techniques for Back Safety

Lifting and back safety is important throughout the kitchen, whether it is garbage removal, bringing a bag of flour to the dough mixer, or moving around a full keg of beer. 

Watch the Society webinar below to learn how to prevent muscle strain injuries in the workplace.

Share this webinar at an upcoming staff meeting or have new employees take a few minutes to watch it on their phone as part of your new-hire orientation process. A little bit of coaching can help your staff understand the mechanics of lifting, how it can help protect them from the pain of an injury, and ultimately provide a savings to you as an employer. 

Keep Your Service on Track

Back-of-house hazards are common in the busy restaurant kitchen environment, but proper control of these hazards will likely lead to fewer claims.  There are proven successful preventive measures and controls available to mitigate these common back-of-house hazards. Let’s work together to make sure you are spending your time focusing on your customers and their dining experience instead of preventable injuries in your restaurant kitchen.

For additional free resources to help control risks and save you money, please check out our Risk Control Library or contact our Risk Control team anytime. 

Additional Reading


Shelby has a master's degree from St. Louis University's School of Public Health. He has worked as a Risk Improvement Representative for Society Insurance since 2010. Shelby has been a safety and risk management resource for contractors, supermarkets, convenience stores, the hospitality industry, health care and higher education. He is a member of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and the Insurance Loss Control Association (ILCA).

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