Distracted Cook Slices Thumb in Kitchen

Distracted Cook Slices Thumb in Kitchen

In The Safety Report TalentClick digs deep to identify what really caused workplace incidents. More times than not, we find human error is the cause, but it takes even more digging to establish the route of the cause. In a recent workplace incident at a Vancouver-based restaurant, a cook found himself on a trip to the hospital to fix an injury he later admits could have been prevented. Here’s his story.

The Environment

At this Vancouver-based restaurant chain, management takes safety seriously and there seems to be a culture of awareness and teamwork in keeping each other safe. Proper equipment is available, kept in top working order, and is within reach of every employee. WHMIS and FoodSafe training is mandatory for all employees prior to starting their position. But most importantly co-workers care about each other and will stop another from doing anything unsafe.

The Incident

Halfway through an 8 hour shift, a cook was about to put a container away on the top shelf above the grill. Standard procedure is to use the step ladder a few feet away, but instead the cook stepped on a pot that was on the kitchen floor and found himself slipping across the floor and on his way to what could have been a significant injury. Bracing himself against the stainless steel shelf and a quick-reacting co-worker, the cook was able to walk away with only a sliced thumb and wounded pride. He is the first one to admit that he was lucky:

“If I hadn’t braced myself and been supported by the other employee, the situation could have been so much worse. I was actually lucky that 2 stitches is all I got. I could have cracked my head, cut myself, and probably missed a whole lot more work.”

Management’s Response

According to our cook, his co-workers acted quickly. As mentioned previously, a fellow cook immediately came to the aid of the cook and caught him before the fall. After that the bar manager walked him to the sink, washed off the wound, and drove him directly to the hospital. The restaurant manager then called a replacement cook into cover the lost hours from the incident.

Impact of the Incident

For the company:

  • Loss of 1 hour productivity from the cook
  • Loss of 1 hour productivity from bar manager
  • 3 hours of overtime for replacement worker
  • Slower production from injured cook for 1 work week

For the cook:

“It was painful, but wasn’t enough to miss work. It is a place I can still work with a glove on. It was just awkward and uncomfortable.”

  • 2 stitches on his hand
  • Constant pain in thumb and hand
  • Loss of 4 paid work hours

Exploring the Cause

For a person with 17 years’ experience working in kitchens, on job sites, and on the road, an incident like this was not expected as it has never happen before. Upon reflection he realized that a certain level of complacency worked its way into his workstyle, which made him more easily distracted on the job. As a moonlighting musician, the cook was caught up thinking about a song he was writing when he made this mistake. Describing the incident as if looking through someone else’s eyes and knowing he was doing something wrong, the cook still went ahead with the dangerous act. He likened his actions to cheating on a strict diet:

“It’s like when you’re walking down the street and you’re really hungry and you see a McDonalds. You know you shouldn’t eat it but you just do it because it’s the easiest and quickest way to satisfy your hunger.”

With the convenience of the pot being directly in front of him, the step ladder across the kitchen, and being distracted with his music, he made a bad decision which ultimately led to a trip to the hospital.

Moving Forward

Since the incident, this employee has dedicated himself to ensuring a safe working environment for him and his co-workers. With the knowledge that his own injury could have been prevented he makes sure everyone is aware of proper safety procedures and that they all know where to find all the proper safety equipment. When asked how he would act in a similar situation in the future, he proclaimed:

“There’s no question when I start to do things now, I immediately grab a step ladder.”

Many companies that are serious about safety appoint a ‘Safety Captain’. If the Restaurant asked him to take on the role, he would be glad to do it:

“I’ve already kind of taken on that role because I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”