KEY POINTS:
* Main concerns include working posture, ambient temperature and having the right tools for the task
* A key issue for foodservice workers is that physical demands vary throughout the day — but workflow planning can minimise risk of injury
* Back pain is probably the most common ailment but this can be alleviated by improving the quality of your floor surfaces
* The posture you adopt when working at a benchtop also needs to be considered, as does the need to ensure adequate lighting

EVERY SUCCESSFUL PIZZERIA, pub, bistro, café or restaurant is built on hours of hard work, often starting early and working late into the night. And when you’re in a role which requires you to spend lots of time on your feet — such as serving customers and preparing food — it can take a considerable toll on your physical wellbeing over time.
However, once you are aware of the main risk factors, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your staff against physical workplace stress.
For people working in foodservice businesses, the main concerns are working posture, ambient temperature and having the right tools for the task at hand.
General physical health and fitness also plays an important role — and this is not only impacted by lifestyle factors, but also the demands of the job. If you’re working variable hours across several shifts per week, it’s often difficult to maintain a regular exercise regime.
For many foodservice workers, there’s a lot of moving and lifting of stock — often in variable environmental conditions. Moving boxes in and out of cold storage can have a different impact than working in a controlled climate.
One of the key issues is that the physical demands on foodservice workers vary throughout the day. For example, lifting and handling of stock may be in a constrained space where it’s not possible to use optimal lifting techniques. If you’re bending awkwardly, stretching or straining, this can cause back pain over time or result in a one-off accident.
It’s therefore important to plan workflows so as to minimise risk of injury. For example, staggering the timing of deliveries throughout the day to allow different workers to share the load of moving stock. Careful planning of storage spaces will improve functionality and workflow, as will using trolleys instead of manual lifting whenever possible.
Back pain is probably the most common ailment among chefs and back of house staff, and is typically due to standing in the one position for long periods.
One way you can relieve this is to improve the quality of your floor surfaces with rubber matting which not only protects against trips and spills but also improves shock absorption.
The posture you adopt when working at a benchtop also needs to be considered, as does the need to ensure adequate lighting. If you can’t clearly see what you’re doing, you’re likely to lean in closer, which will impact on your neck and shoulder posture. For this reason, it’s also important to have your vision checked regularly — if your glasses aren’t the correct prescription, your physical efforts to compensate could be making your neck and shoulder symptoms worse.
Cardiovascular fitness is important for anyone spending long hours on their feet and engaged in the type of repetitive manual tasks involved in preparing pizzas and other food. Regular aerobic activity, such as walking, jogging, running, swimming and cycling, is a wise choice for your leisure hours to ensure your body is fit for the rigours of the job.
Above all, don’t make the mistake of thinking that back pain and physical injury is just part of working in foodservice. These health issues are preventable and the risk of injury can be minimised by putting sensible workplace practices in place.
Back pain
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