Occupational Safety and Health Research Paper

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Occupational Health and Safety in Catering Industry in Hong Kong

Occupational Safety and Health

The incidence rate of workplace accidents in the catering industry in Hong Kong is higher than that of other sectors, even those associated with inherently high risk to workers. Despite corrective action within the catering industry, the accident rate remains stubbornly high. This research identifies causal factors in occupational accidents in catering companies and delineates effective strategies that can be emulated by catering businesses in Hong Kong in efforts to reduce their accident rates and worker injuries.

Hong Kong is known for its international cuisine and, characteristically, a high number of restaurants -- many offering catering services -- exist in the city. Yet, the polished environments of the dining areas of world-class restaurants contrast greatly with the restaurant kitchen and backroom workspaces. The catering industry in Hong Kong attains extraordinarily high rates of accidents and has, according to the 2010 occupational safety and health statistic bulletin of the Labour Department of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People's Republic of China, has the highest rate of occupational accidents, even exceeding the accident rate found in construction, manufacturing, mining and quarrying, transport and servicing, and utilities. Changes in safety measures to reduce the number of occupational accidents in the workplace have been attempted by numerous catering companies in Hong Kong (Kuen, 2005). A considerable amount of resources have been directed at the safety measures (Kuen, 2005). Nevertheless, the corrective measures have not made a substantive impact on safety for workers in the catering industry in Hong Kong (Kuen, 2005). Moreover, the global economic recovery, which includes revitalizing increases in tourism, suggests a growing catering industry. Indeed, with approximately 10,000 eating establishments that account for roughly 170,000 jobs, it is important that this mainstay service industry have a robust operational health capable of sustaining high rates of employment (Kuen, 2005).

Most of the studies on accident rates in catering companies have focused on the causes and the costs of unsafe workplaces. Researchers have examined the problem of unsafe workplaces from the perspective of injuries to personnel, indirect company costs, direct company costs, company reputation, job retention, employee morale, and other human costs (Kuen, 2005). Direct costs that have been addressed in the literature include workers' compensation expenses born by companies, sick leave taken by injured workers, occupier's liability premium, and legal representation costs (Kuen, 2005). Indirect costs are at times difficult to ascertain since they may be difficult to quantify or estimate (Kuen, 2005). A wide array of worker-related statistics is available on the websites of government agencies, including the Census Statistics Department and the Labour Department. Data is available on occupational diseases, the number of work-related injuries and deaths, the number of work-related accidents, and the types of work-related accidents. The thrust of information collection in government and academia has to been aggregate data. There is a conspicuous dearth of prescriptive information about how to mitigate the situations that lead to high worker accident rates. Businesses have long relied on case studies to provide models for transformative practices. This research is based on the notion that catering companies located in Hong Kong can effectively benefit from the review of case studies that illustrate and delineate effective safety programs.

The continued capacity of the restaurant business in Hong Kong as a substantive source of jobs is dependent on the ability of the industry to correct its unsafe operations. This research is intended to illuminate strategies that can be utilized by Hong Kong catering businesses to manifest these safety goals through important transformations. This study is designed to identify causal factors in the occupational accidents occurring in the workplaces of catering companies, and to identify approaches and methods used in companies located overseas where catering companies have lowered their accident rates.

Chapter 2 - Literature Review

This chapter presents a review of the literature on occupational safety and health in the catering industry, and compares the causality and incidences of work-related accidents in the Hong Kong catering business with those in the food and beverage industry overseas. Several issues relating to differences in the data sets, reporting formats, and substantive differences in resource availability and enforcement of regulations across the cases are also discussed.

Occupational safety and health data from Hong Kong. A partnership program of the Occupational Health and Safety Counsel (OSHC), the Green Cross Group offers research outcomes, benchmark studies, and training programs in the area of safety and health management ("OSHC," 2012). The OSHC is a statutory body for promoting workplace health and safety and to safeguard and sustain the Hong Kong workforce ("OSHC," 2012). OSHC facilitates networking for the purpose of benchmarking the safety and health performance of different organizations with the best performers in their industries ("OSHC," 2012). A primary purpose of the benchmarking initiative is the identification of variables that are associated with best practices in order to create models and make recommendations for peak performance in safety and health management ("OSHC," 2012). OSHC provides a lending library and creates local networking events and meetings of participating organizations to create common interest groups by organization or functional process ("OSHC," 2012). Moreover, through the OSHC, safety training is made available to organizations in order to explore the application of benchmarking and quality improvement initiatives ("OSHC," 2012). This effort is strengthened by conducting local and international study missions, workshops, and symposia with the idea that the shared experiences will lead to deeper insights into best practices implementation ("OSHC," 2012).

Green Cross research has established that the workplace injuries that occur in the catering business in Hong Kong tend to be less severe on the whole than injuries that occur in the construction industry ("OSHC," 2012). However, on an absolute basis, the number of injuries in the catering business exceeds the number of injuries in the construction industry ("OSHC," 2012). In 2004, Green Cross conducted an investigation through surveys research on the number and root causes of industrial accidents ("OSHC," 2012). Of the 5,827 accidents that occurred in the catering business accounted for roughly half of the total industrial accidents. Interestingly, the number of accidents occurring in the construction trade from 1999 to 2003 fell steadily from approximately 14,000 accidents to about 4,000 accidents, or roughly one third of the 1999 rate ("OSHC," 2012). In contrast, the number of accidents occurring in the catering industry was approximately 12,500 in 1999 and fell to 5,827 in 2003, or roughly just under one half of the 1999 rate ("OSHC," 2012). Moreover, the number of accidents that have occurred in the catering industry from was consistently higher than the number of accidents in the construction industry, and the difference between the two industries was substantial for the years 2001, 2002, and 2003 ("OSHC," 2012). In summary, each of the major industries that are associated with high occupational rates has experienced a substantive drop in those rates, but the catering industry continues to have the highest rates ("OSHC," 2012).

The Labour Department has established a comprehensive database about work-related issues, including the accidents that occur in the catering industry ("OSHC," 2012). Approximately two-thirds of the worker injuries that occur in catering occupations are caused by the use of hand tools, contact with hot substances or hot surfaces, and some type of fall, including slipping and tripping ("OSHC," 2012). Following these most common sources of injuries, are accidents from striking some fixed or stationary object, lifting and carrying injuries, and contact with some moving object including moving machinery or objects being machines ("OSHC," 2012). Catering workers also sustain injury by being trapped between objects and from falling objects. In addition, some workers are exposed to or contact a harmful substance or are hurt by animals in the course of their catering work ("OSHC," 2012).

The order in which these accidents are listed here roughly corresponds with the accident incidence rate by type in the catering industry from year-to-year. Specifically, Labour Department statistics show the overall number of accidents in 2001 was 10,149 and that the accident rate per 1,000 employees was 54.7% ("OSHC," 2012). Of the 49,649 cases of employee compensation reported in 2002, 21% or 10,484 were from the catering industry ("OSHC," 2012). Moreover, in 2003, 47,376 injury cases resulted in employees taking sick leave for three days or more, with 10,358 or 22% of that number from the catering industry ("OSHC," 2012). Injured employees and their families received approximately $61 million in compensation, a figure that represents 7.7% of the total amount of compensation ($804 million) paid in 2003 for employee related accidents ("OSHC," 2012). Approximately 160,000 workdays were lost as a result of workplace injuries in 2003, the total cost of which was more $1.2 million ("OSHC," 2012). From a brief review of these figures, it is apparent that financial costs and profitability strongly motive attention to workplace safety at the corporate level ("OSHC," 2012). Moreover, it is important to note that although workplace accident rates have gone down over the decade or so, certain types…[continue]

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