How long has it been since you checked the guard on your slicer? When did you last test the safety cut-off on your roller or examine the condition of extension cords? I’d do it sooner than later, because those items are among many pizzeria-applicable conditions addressed by federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
OSHA standards exist to protect workers. When compliance inspectors discover violations, they issue mandatory abatement orders and fines. Penalties, plus the inconvenience, cost and emotional trauma often resulting when an employee suffers serious injury or death are excellent reasons to improve upon or develop and monitor a comprehensive workplace safety program.
Many pizzeria operators hesitate, though, because they lack necessary expertise and tools. Enter the Pizzeria Workplace Safety Audit (PWSA). You use charts, forms and lists to manage many activities, from inventory, to labor schedules, to maintenance plans. The PWSA is a similar tool that helps evaluate your pizzeria’s safety efforts. Let’s take a closer look.
Operators with comprehensive safety programs periodically use a safety audit to help identify hazards and plot corrective action. A good PWSA helps maximize safety efforts and provides payback in the form of valuable benefits, including:
Lower or eliminate fines
Lessen mandatory abatement orders
Decrease workplace injuries
Decrease medical and insurance costs
Identify employee training needs
Maximize worker satisfaction and longevity
Use a PWSA form developed by a safety professional, someone who can apply OSHA standards to pizzerias. PWSA’s come in a variety of formats. Some target location within the pizzeria. Some focus on types of hazards. Some, like the PWSA printed here, are general lists highlighting hazards commonly existing within the pizzeria. Others, like the one found at Pizza Today Online, are extensive and organized by location as well as specific safety topics, like Electrical, Fire Protection and Back Injuries. But regardless of scope or format, they all serve as guides to hazard identification and planning corrective action.
The form must work for your operation. Even though an “expert” developed the PWSA, you should customize the form to suit your needs. So, add or delete items as necessary, based on existing equipment and processes in your operation. In addition, if you’re located in a state operating a “State Plan” (see sidebar), access state rules (usually available online – Google your state OSHA) and add items not found in federal standards.
Okay, time to do your first PWSA. Be thorough and ruthlessly honest. Carefully check each item. Observe employees performing normal tasks. You might ask questions, like “Do you know the primary hazard associated with that spray cleaner?” Take requested measurements. And absolutely do reject memory, assumption or personal perception as timesaving shortcuts.
Expect the first audit to consume more time than subsequent ones. You can complete the form in more than one sitting, but try to finish within a week for the sake of timely analysis and correction. Don’t become frustrated when the process raises additional questions demanding further research. The PWSA is supposed to make you learn more about safety standards and how they apply to your operation. Additional information is available through OSHA’s Web site at www.osha.gov. There you can access published standards (29 CFR Part 1910) and tools that assist with employee training. And if you’re in a “state plan” location, your state’s OSHA Web site should also provide useful information.
Make simple corrections on the spot. I’m talking things like grease on the floor. But even if you take immediate action, enter the conditions as existing hazards on the PWSA. That’s because a complete form will provide future reference for determining employee training topics, or reworking employee orientation materials, or just keeping track of items that have been chronic problems.
After the PWSA
Complete the PWSA, and then examine results. Expect hazards to overwhelm you, especially the first time. Don’t falter. This is a critical point in the process. Unfortunately, lots of folks throw their hands into the air, crumple the PWSA form and go about business as usual. That accomplishes nothing. Instead, do your best to prioritize. Assign hazards to broad categories that express your best judgment about the likelihood or severity of injury. Some examples and hypothetical hazards:
• Serious: (most likely to cause severe injury or death, large number of exposed employees); No guard on slicer; Inoperable safety latch on walk-in.
• Less Serious (likely to cause minor injury, lesser number of exposed employees): Loose door on make table; Extension cord in good condition, but should be replaced with permanent wiring.
• Administrative (documentation incomplete or missing): Required training complete, but no documentation; OSHA poster not displayed.
Once you’ve prioritized existing hazards, take corrective action according to your priority list. You may or may not ever resolve all hazards, but don’t let that discourage you. Your ongoing effort, aided by tools like the PWSA, is a sound investment that will pay dividends over time.