Restaurant Risk Assessment — It’s No Accident
Excerpt from Restaurant OSHA Safety and Security: The Book of Restaurant Industry Standards and Best Practices
Restaurant owners and employers have a legal duty to control the risk of harm or injury to anyone who enters the premises of their business. To fulfill this obligation, it is necessary to consider what hazards or dangerous conditions might cause harm or injury to employees, customers, vendors or others. Then it must be decided whether all reasonable and customary steps are being taken to prevent those incidents from occurring — or if more needs to be done.
This process is known as risk assessment, and it is critical to managing the safety, health, and security of a restaurant’s customers, employees and vendors alike.
There is a Scientific Method for Risk Assessment
A risk assessment is the initial step of a systematic method to control potential risks. First, by identifying potential hazards in your restaurant (i.e., existing activities, behaviors, systems, processes and/or conditions that could cause potential harm or injury to persons). Second, by analyzing or evaluating the risk(s) associated with each hazard (taking into consideration the potential for and the severity of harm or injury), and, finally, by deciding on what measures, if any, should be implemented to remove, limit, or control the hazard(s) in order to avoid injury or harm from occurring in the first place. In much simpler terms, you must take every reasonable action to remove potential danger for bodily harm or injury in your restaurant.
The Scientific Formula of Risk
In the balancing of risks to establish a reasonable person’s standard of ordinary care, the rule has been established that: “The probability of the harm potentially caused (P) must be balanced along with the gravity of harm which could result (G), against the burden of conforming to a new and less dangerous course of action (B) along with the utility of maintaining the same course of action as it was (U).
In shorthand: P + G v. B + U.
In simpler terms, it is the process of determining the likelihood (P) that harm and/or injury of any kind will occur from a current situation in your restaurant and then determining whether to make adjustments to eliminate or remove the situation (B) based on the severity of the harm and/or injury (G) that may occur, opposed to leaving the situation as it is (U).
Why is this important to know? Because, if someone gets injured or worse on your premises or under your watch, the lawyers, the experts, and the judges will most likely consider this formula, or something similar, to determine if you and your employees fulfilled your obligations to assess and remove dangerous conditions and hazards to a level that would meet industry standard.
Steps of a Scientific Method for Restaurant Risk Assessment:
1. Ask the question: “Is it safe?”
2. Use your knowledge, skills, experience, and common sense – do research, if necessary.
3. Ask yourself: “If ________ (activity, behavior, condition, system, process, etc.) is left as it is, what could happen? Could someone get injured?”
4. Analyze your compiled information/data and reach a conclusion.
5. Finally, take the necessary steps to communicate your results and implement the appropriate measures to eliminate any potential hazards
It’s as simple as this: if you don’t assess your restaurant in its entirety for possible dangerous conditions and hazards, then you are putting yourself, your employees, your customers, and your vendors at risk. Restaurant owners and employers must take the necessary and reasonable steps to minimize or eliminate potentially dangerous conditions and hazards, and must make sure that they have created and implemented the operating systems, policies, and procedures that would most likely and reasonably ensure safety, health, and security for all.
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