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December 7, 2021

How to Decrease Work-Related Injuries and Increase Employee Retention in the Restaurant Industry

By: Meg Bentley

On a weekday night in early November, I drove to Parlor Pizza Bar in Chicago’s West Loop to meet my co-worker, Andrea, for dinner. As I turned off Randolph onto Green Street, I was happy to see so many people out and about. Entering Parlor Pizza Bar, I experienced a pre-Covid déjà vu moment. This restaurant was vibrant with groups of families, friends, and co-workers drinking, eating, and laughing. The hostesses were welcoming, the service fantastic, and we lucked out with our server, Charlie Pienta, whose food and wine recommendations were amazing. All our orders arrived quickly, and our empty dishes and glasses were promptly cleared.

Unlike Parlor Pizza Bar, so many beloved Chicago restaurants and bars have said good-bye and closed their doors after decades of service. Over 18 months of navigating and counseling clients through this historic pandemic has only increased my awareness of workers’ compensation claims as well as the negative impact the virus is continuing to have on businesses and restaurants struggling to find and retain enough workers who are concerned about COVID-19 and work-related injuries. The most common restaurant injuries are sprains and strains typically resulting from slips, trips, falls, or lifting/handling awkward, heavy items. Other common injuries include cuts, lacerations, and burns.

However, most of these injuries can be prevented by restaurants, thereby decreasing their workers’ compensation claims and increasing the happiness and morale of their employees, by practicing the following:

1. Develop and train your employees on all health and safety policies and procedures to prevent restaurant accidents and injuries:

  • Restaurants are responsible for training their employees to follow proper safety protocol. A written set of specific guidelines should be provided to employees to ensure proper communication and understanding of all restaurant health and safety policies and procedures.
  • Training should apply to all workers when hired and when reassigned to new job positions.
  • Training should include, but not be limited to the following:
    ➢ Use of appropriate clothing and safety gear, including gloves, glasses, footwear, and PPE to prevent burns, cuts, and falls;
    ➢ Proper lifting and handling methods and never carrying more than they are able to handle;
    ➢ Quickly cleaning up spills, keeping floors free of debris and clutter, ensuring proper placement of non-slip mats, and covering pans and other containers to prevent spills or burns;
    ➢ Proper use of restaurant kitchen equipment; and
    ➢ Emergency procedures and first aid provisions.

2. Report, investigate, and mitigate restaurant accidents and injuries:

  • Workplace accidents should be immediately reported by employees. Under Section 6(c) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, notice of an accident must be given as soon as practicable and include the approximate date and location of the accident (if known).
  • Managers and supervisors should investigate workplace accidents as soon as possible to determine the cause, including reviewing the accident scene and surveillance videos, interviewing the injured worker and witnesses, obtaining witnesses statements, and preparing accident reports.
  • Corrective actions should then be taken by restaurants to prevent future injuries, exposures, and/or illnesses.

3. Like Parlor Pizza Bar, ensure your staff and patrons always follow Illinois’s mandatory mask requirement and continue to practice social distancing:

  • The servers and other staff at Parlor Pizza Bar were never without a face covering and always properly masked (per Governor’s Executive Order 2021-20) and are also required “to disinfect surfaces between visits” (per Parlor Pizza Bar’s website).
  • Although the capacity limits and social distancing requirements at most businesses in Illinois were lifted as of August 20, 2021, the groups of people at Parlor Pizza Bar’s bar and tables were physically distanced and safely maintained.

On behalf of Kelley Kronenberg, Andrea, and me, thank you, Parlor Pizza Bar, for your ambience; Charlie, for your wonderful recommendations and service; hostesses, for your friendliness; and cooks, bartenders, and prep staff, for your delicious menu and wine. Most of all, thank you for reminding us of what pre-pandemic dining felt like.


Meg Bentley is a Partner at Kelley Kronenberg, Chicago, focusing her practice on Workers’ Compensation

Member, Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA)

Contact Meg Bentley at:
Phone: (800) 718-9865


DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a courtesy and is intended for the general information of the matters discussed above and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Neither Kelley Kronenberg, nor its individual attorneys or staff, are responsible for errors, omissions and/or typographical errors – always seek competent legal counsel.