• Safety Basics

  July 31, 2017

Injury Prevention: Pub and Restaurant Safety

This article provides injury prevention tips to help servers and bar staff prevent sprains and strains while lifting and carrying.

Find More Resources

3 min read

A University of Alberta study reported that bartenders’ and food servers’ jobs put them at risk of serious injury. The report cited lifting beer kegs as the primary reason many bartenders end up with back trouble, and that such incidents are widespread in the industry.

Quickly and repeatedly slinging heavy trays of food or glassware around will take its toll on workers’ backs, shoulders and wrists. Therefore, establishments need to take a proactive approach to preventing injuries.  Don’t wait for one or more of your employees to hurt themselves. Serious injuries will cost you not only in trying to cover for missed shifts — they may also increase your WorkSafeBC premiums.


  • Educate all servers and bar staff on proper techniques for heavy lifting. Demonstrate that correct posturing means bending at the knees and not the waist. This way, a person’s legs — rather than their back — will support the bulk of the weight. Let staff know that repeatedly bending forward from the waist is sure to cause problems down the road. You can do this by holding a brief training session at the beginning of their first shift demonstrating proper lifting techniques and allowing them an opportunity to learn safe lifting right from the beginning
  • Instruct employees to keep heavy loads close to the body, and not to swing them from side to side or above the head. Advise against twisting at the waist when changing direction. Moving one’s feet in the direction of travel is much safer. As mentioned above, this is simply done by taking a few minutes to demonstrate the appropriate technique. Schedule time for in-person demonstrations when you are not busy and able to calmly and thoroughly demonstrate the technique, observe the employees’ technique and answer any questions
  • Equip your bar with an ergonomic rubber floor mat. These mats provide cushioning against hard floors, which is very important when bartenders are on their feet for eight hours at a time. Mats also reduce incidents of slipping if floors become wet.
  • On that note, prevent against falling accidents by ensuring all spills are quickly tidied
  • Make sure when hiring new staff that each understands food service jobs are physical. Workers should be fit and healthy in order to perform required tasks
  • Post reminders in the staffroom that illustrate or describe proper lifting techniques. You might also post suggestions for stretching movements or muscle-building exercises employees can perform prior to their shifts
  • Investigate using wrist or back braces for any employee needing extra support
  • For every shift, schedule sufficient staff to enable servers to assist one another with carrying food trays. Repeated pressure to carry five or six plates at a time is too much. Instead, have two servers carry three plates each. The need for safety must outweigh your concern for labour costs
  • Prolonged standing can also lead to injuries. Allocate enough coverage for staff to take proper breaks

Remember, even if dangerous movements present no problems at the start, repetitive stress on joints and ligaments can cause serious damage over time. Therefore, it’s crucial to educate staff about healthy habits. It’s also your responsibility to provide sufficient support so employees can move about safely — even on the busiest days.

go2HR is BC’s tourism & hospitality, human resources and health & safety association driving strong workforces and safe workplaces that deliver world class tourism and hospitality experiences in BC. Follow us on LinkedIn or reach out to our team.

Return to top