Waiting tables for a living in one of the many restaurants in Arlington Heights, Illinois, might be the ideal job for you. However, along with the social interaction and the flexible hours come the toll of stress, headaches, short tempers, sleep disturbances and multiple other work-related hazards. Tips can be a nice but unpredictable added bonus.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires all employers in the hospitality industry to protect the health and safety of their employees. Although there might not be regulations specifically for the protection of servers, employers must comply with OSHA's general safety standards.
A menu of potential hazards
If you are aware of the following potential risks, you could take precautions and be ready to deal with them as they arise:
- Repetitive stress injuries: If you carry trays loaded with heavy crockery, the repetitive stress on your wrists can cause injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Burn injuries: Handling hot beverages and food can cause burns, and if your duties take you into the kitchen, hot surfaces as well as boiling oil and liquids will add more hazards.
- Backaches: Pains and aches in your back and other muscles are par for the course if you spend many hours on your feet, often carrying heavy trays. Make sure you sit down during breaks to relieve muscular strain.
- Noise exposure: Safety authorities say loud music, customer conversations, shouting servers, bartenders and other restaurant staff typically exceed the safe decibel limits, and many restaurant employees suffer hearing loss.
- Secondhand smoke: Fortunately, Illinois restaurants do not allow smoking but be aware of the dangers of inhaling secondhand smoke when you share the area where co-workers take smoke breaks. It could cause asthma and increase the risks of cancer and heart attacks.
- Varicose veins: Your job might not cause those fine blue veins on your legs because they are typically hereditary. However, if you already have them, long hours on your feet might cause those veins to swell and become painful.
- Slip-and-fall hazards: These cause tens of thousands of injuries to restaurant workers each year. Wear shoes with a good grip and always clean up spills immediately.
- Sexual harassment: Sadly, this is a hazard that will never go away. Strict laws exist to protect you from sexual harassment by clients. Report incidents to your employer immediately, and he or she must take steps to ensure it does not continue.
Along with these come the risks of strains and sprains due to unsafe lifting of heavy objects, and further risks exist due to cuts and poor sanitation. For the hazards that you cannot mitigate yourself, remember you have the right to report unaddressed safety hazards to authorities.
If you suffer an on-the-job injury despite your steps to stay safe, you might find comfort in knowing that help is available to cover your medical expenses and even lost wages. If you report your injury to your employer as soon as possible, you can file a workers' compensation benefits claim. An experienced Illinois attorney can assist with the legal and administrative steps of the claims process.