All employees of fast-food restaurants, including part-time workers, students and retirees, are covered by workers’ compensation laws. Frequently, fast-food employees are not aware of these rights or are afraid to make claims, despite recurring injuries in these workplaces. These workplaces are dangerous, and recent efforts by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may result in a safer environment.
In fact, McDonald’s workers in 19 cities have requested OSHA inspections, “alleging they’ve been injured because of a lack of training and protective equipment,” according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune.
“Scott Allen, an OSHA spokesman, said the agency is investigating some McDonald’s in several states. ‘We do investigate all complaints and take every complaint seriously,’ Allen said.”
Meanwhile, McDonald’s, in the statement quoted below, essentially discounted the complaints as disgruntled workers and activists who are focused on the brand and want to make sure the media is covering the activists’ concerns.
“McDonald’s and its independent franchisees are committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald’s Brand U.S. restaurants. We will review these allegations. It is important to note that these complaints are part of a larger strategy orchestrated by activists targeting our brand and designed to generate media coverage.”
I would note that as much as we in the general public like to blame the media (or the messenger), respected publications like the Chicago Tribune usually realize when a story is fluff and when it is a legitimate concern. I believe, like the Tribune coverage would show, that this situation falls into the legitimate concern category.
A total of 28 complaints, nine against corporate-owned restaurants and 19 against franchisees’ locations, were submitted to OSHA, according to information from the campaign called Fight for $15.
“Complaints include one from a New Orleans worker who cited lack of training and equipment for burns suffered while filtering grease, according to documents provided by the campaign. The campaign also alleges that a Philadelphia worker who was badly burned when reaching for a cookie tray was told by a manager to use mayonnaise to treat the burn.
“Workers said understaffing and pressure to work faster resulted in injuries. Those injuries, they added, were not properly treated.”
According to another article on the McDonald’s investigation, other unconventional methods of treatment were also suggested, in addition to the mayo mentioned above.
“Some workers have even claimed that after suffering workplace injury, they were told to treat it with condiments like mustard and mayonnaise rather than using medical ointment.”
Hot oil causes burns; slick floors cause slips and falls; and lifting and moving large boxes cause strains and joint damage. Remember: fast-food workers are covered under workers’ compensation.
I recently saw a press release of a product that could help alleviate some of the danger around hot oil. “The main thing FryerGate prevents is the unintended events that cause injuries such as body parts or foreign objects from entering the boiling oil,” according to the release.
“The Executive Director of The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH), Mary Vogel, stated in a press conference (recently) that over 79 percent, or 2.8 million fast food workers, had been burned in the past year based on a ‘first-ever national survey of fast food workers about health and safety on the job.’ The survey, conducted by Hart Research, states that 54 percent of those burn incidents take place at fryers, which equates to over 1.5 million fryer-related burns. Fifty-eight percent have been burned multiple times.”
If this product lives up to its claims and improves safety for fast-food workers who work in challenging, hurried conditions, this would definitely be a good thing. However, it doesn’t solve the many other issues and claims McDonald’s has against it through the Fight for $15 labor group. Regardless, the OSHA investigation will be an interesting situation to follow. I will continue to do so, and encourage you to do the same.