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Serving up suds a hazardous task


Too much time in the tavern can be hazardous to your health--and not just for the drinkers bending their elbows or scrapping with the bouncer, according to a new study done in part at the University of Alberta.

A joint study published in the September edition of Applied Ergonomics by the University of Alberta and Napier University of Scotland, shows that servers, cooks and bartenders risk serious injuries while doing their everyday jobs serving up suds and finger foods.

"The image of a pub environment conveys a homey, intimate atmosphere, but the physical demands associated with occupations in a pub have had little attention," said Dr. Shrawan Kumar, professor of physical therapy at the University of Alberta. "Working in a pub involves tasks that pose risk to workers, and changes are required."

The case study of a neighborhood pub in British Columbia, Canada, revealed that of all the tasks done in a pub, bartending has the highest potential for injury. Bartenders run a high risk of back injury from lifting beer kegs (weighing 72.5 kilograms), as well as shoulder pain from pouring pitchers and from reaching to upper shelves for premium liquor. Servers get aches and pains from lifting trays and stooping over tables of customers. Cooks are also prone to back injuries when retrieving bulk staples like onions and gravy from the cooler.

Pub injuries make themselves felt in the workforce, the study noted. Cost of compensation for hotel, restaurant and pub workers rose from $13,182,598 in 1996 to $18,458,551 in 1999, according to the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia. Repetitive lifting of heavy loads in constrained spaces such as cramped kitchens and storerooms was a main culprit. For instance, the study showed that only 3.6 per cent of the female worker population would have the trunk strength necessary to lift a keg of beer, and 100 per cent of the population would not have the shoulder or elbow strength required.

In determining the risk of injuries in the pub study, Dr. Kumar and his fellow researchers, factored in worker gender, height and weight.

The study recommended several changes for the pub in question, including reducing the height of the bar, installing a slip-free perforated floor behind the bar, using higher tables for customers, better organizing the cooler, and using a dolly to move heavy loads.

Pamphlets were also recommended for placement at each work station in the pub’s kitchen and serving areas, to remind staff of how to avoid injuries.

Beverly Betkowski | EurekAlert!
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