The Hokey-Pokey approach to security and safety

May 31, 2013 | by D. B. "Libby" Libhart

Last year slip, trip, and falls were a real problem for the restaurant. Several employees sustained rather serious injuries. Emphasis was placed on mopping up spills quickly and being more careful walking around the mop sink and walk-in cooler. At another location, an employee taking out the trash after closing was accosted at gunpoint by robbers and taken back inside through the open back door. The manager was then forced to open the safe and the robbers stole thousands of dollars. A rule was instituted prohibiting the back to be opened after dark. A few months ago, a straw broom was placed next to the gas water heater. The pilot flame ignited the straw broom and the ensuing fire destroyed the entire kitchen. After repairs were done and the restaurant was reopened, employees were instructed not to store anything near the water heater.

That was then. What are the conditions now? Are employees still mopping up spills immediately? Is the back door now opened after dark now that the emotional trauma of the robbery has subsided? Is the same care taken in not placing anything near the water heater?

In and out

When security and safety are not part of the culture of an organization, addressing issues that negatively affect organization is simply reactionary. The issue is addressed and we move on. When the problem seems to go away, so does our memory of the adverse affects it had on our employees, our customers and our business. Our attention to the solution fades, compliance disappears, and we become vulnerable to the same issue. Sometimes we are all in after a crisis occurs... and then we're not. The problem resurfaces from the lack of attention, and then we're in again as we regain our focus. It's much like the game of Hokey-Pokey we played at the last wedding reception.

Priorities vs. core values

Many companies state that safety is their number one priority. But when it requires consistency in compliance to policies and procedures, it may wane when "nothing ever happens." "We've never had a robbery so I don't see why we can't take the trash out through the back door after dark." There is limited storage space for store records so they are stored above the ceiling tiles in the office creating a serious fire hazard. It's too inconvenient to lock the drive-thru window after each transaction during the late night hours, or to keep storage items below 18" of the sprinkler heads. When business priorities require our attention, the security and safety priorities may slide down the list when they are not ingrained into the culture as core values.

Shake it all about

Restaurants compete for the customer dollar. Every transaction counts. Risk avoidance, however, is the silent partner of profitability. Avoiding worker's comp accidents eliminates medical costs and lowers yearly premiums. The robbery that is prevented through sound prevention practices averts cash losses not to mention the mental anguish of employees. The advantages of preventing major fires in your business speak for itself. Avoiding these risks can be established with a security and safety minded culture. But it takes being "all in and shaking it all about."

Build a safety culture by:

  • Aligning security and safety goals with the organizational goals — Integrate security and safety into the process of business practices, policies and compliance.
  • Understanding security and safety resources — Check with your insurers, on-line, vendors, and consultants for resources relating to safety training and education.
  • Building a security-safety culture — Encourage employee participation with suggestions, questions, and to identify hazards and vulnerabilities relating to security and safety in their workplace.
  • Establishing protocols — Know what to do and the procedures to follow when a security or safety incident occurs.
  • Correcting hazards/vulnerabilities — Correct hazards right away even those that require financial investment to make them right.
  • Auditing for compliance — Create checklists related to security and safety policies, procedures, and expectations that are routinely audited by a non-partisan person.

Solicit the participation of employees to create a safer and more secure environment and reward them for their contributions. Include employees from each area of the business on a company sponsored safety committee. Talk about workplace hazards and unsafe worker practices and commit to getting them corrected immediately. Discuss the situations and ways to improve safety. Build a culture where safety is top of mind and everyone is all in. And of course the ending has to be ... "and that's what it's all about!"

For more information on security, safety, loss and crime prevention for restaurants, visit For daily tips on restaurant loss prevention, follow on Twitter @LossBusters

Topics: Insurance / Risk Management, Loss Prevention, Operations Management, Staffing & Training

D. B. "Libby" Libhart
D.B. “Libby” Libhart has more than 30 years of experience in the loss prevention industry. He has provided security and safety leadership in retail settings such as department stores, drug stores and quick-service restaurants. Before launching his own company, LossBusters, Libby served as the Senior Director of U.S. Security and Safety for McDonald’s Corp. He entered the QSR industry with Taco Bell and subsequently YUM Brands. wwwView D. B. "Libby" Libhart's profile on LinkedIn

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