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Documentary exposes dangerous restaurant work conditions

Employers are responsible for the safety of their employees while at the workplace. Likewise, workers have a right to assume that their employers have taken all the necessary precautions to avoid preventable workplace accidents, especially in professions where workers are exposed to dangerous tools and materials. When employers ignore or overlook this important responsibility, it is the workers and their families who suffer the brunt of their negligence.

A documentary from the labor rights organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United highlights the inattention to worker safety displayed by the American restaurant industry. The film exposes working conditions in kitchens around the country, including many in the Washington D.C. area.

Through a series of almost 2,000 interviews with both workers and employers, the documentary-entitled Behind the Kitchen Door-describes the many dangers service industry employees face. Among the many safety hazards were reports of open flames, broken glass, slippery floors, and falling knives.

Workers stated the number of injuries generally increased on busy days, when staff are required to work long hours at a fast pace.

Furthermore, data from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United claims that, in a Washington D.C. survey, half of all restaurant workers reported having received cuts or burns at work and 40 percent claimed that they have been exposed to toxic chemicals.

Behind the Kitchen Door reveals several stark and widespread workplace safety issues throughout the US restaurant industry, and especially in the nearby D.C. area. Service industry employees, like all workers, have the right to work in as safe an environment as possible. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United's report indicates that restaurant owners and supervisors are violating this right and ignoring their responsibility as employers.

Source: In These Times. "No Romance on Valentine's Day for Restaurant Workers." Kari Lydersen, 16 February 2011.

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