5 Common Injuries in Retail and Restaurant Industries

Michael Galvan

An engaged and productive workforce is critical to the success of any organization. This is especially true for employers in the service industry, whether your business is a thriving restaurant or a contemporary retail store. And when your employees are part of your commodities, an employee injury can present huge hurdles.

To keep your business operating at peak efficiency, it’s imperative to identify potential safety hazards, and implement procedures that reduce risks and maximize productivity. The best way to do this is to be aware of what some common occupational injuries are and how they occur. 

These are the five most common injuries you'll see in the retail and restaurant industries, and what steps you can take to prevent them from hurting your employees.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Slick and wet surfaces are responsible for thousands of injuries every year. According to OSHA, this category of incidents is responsible the majority of industrial accidents and 15% of all accidental deaths. For restaurant workers this is a common hazard in kitchen areas, where spills and wet surfaces may be present. Dishwashers and servers are highly prone to slips and falls in these areas.

The key to preventing these injuries are to make sure that all interior floors are dry, free of debris, and consistently monitored. If a spill happens, be sure to clear it immediately to prevent falls. The addition of rubber mats in wet areas can also help to provide more traction.

Repetitive Hand Injuries

Over time, certain daily tasks can lead to chronic injuries. These types of conditions can cause discomfort, pain, swelling, and impaired movement. For employees who work in retail, loading and unloading inventory can lead to these conditions in their hands. One of the most common repetitive hand injuries is carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is constantly compressed. Trigger finger, when a finger gets stuck in one position due to inflation, is also common. Carpal tunnel and trigger finger often occur with employees who spend a large amount of time opening boxes and processing inventory.

Employers should encourage their employees to use proper lifting techniques when working to avoid unnecessary strain on the wrists, fingers, and hands. Stretch breaks are another effective solution for reducing these problems. A physical therapist can teach your employees ways to work without causing strain, including stretches to help prevent pain.

Cuts and burns

Employees in the restaurant industry are regularly exposed to heat and sharp tools, increasing the risk for serious injuries like cuts and burns. Kitchen staff, and other employees who interact with the kitchen, need to have access to protective gear to reduce the risk of an on-the-job injury, like reinforced gloves and burn guards. 

Lower Back Injuries

Most adults will experience back pain at some point in their life, but lower back injuries cause a lot of trouble for any business. These injuries occur when employees are using improper lifting techniques and/or dealing with heavy objects, whether employees are reaching for heavy pots and pans or unloading garments from the back of a delivery van. Lower back injuries typically result from reoccurring movements over time rather than one occasion. 

Employers should demonstrate to the proper way to lift and move objects, and place informational posters around the areas where lifting occurs. Some employers may also want to consider purchasing equipment that relieves the strain from employees, like winches. Back braces are another common option for people the continually transport large objects. 

Machine-Related Injuries

Many jobs within the retail or restaurant industries use large industrial machinery. These tools have the potential to cause serious injury if not properly used or maintained. The best way to prevent injury is by training employees on the proper way to use these systems.

Keeping your equipment up to date and in good working condition is another way to reduce machine-related injuries. Malfunctioning equipment is dangerous and can present a real threat to your workforce.  


There are many more hazards that pose a threat to workers in the retail and restaurant industries, and Concentra can help you protect against them, and care for your employees in the event an injury occurs. Contact one of our workforce experts to help determine the proper solutions for your business and see if there are any gaps in your current workers’ compensation program.