McDonald’s Workers File OSHA Complaints Over Burns
Burns might seem like an ordinary hazard of the trade when you work in kitchens or restaurants. A recent survey of fast food workers conducted by the Hart Research Association found that 79% of respondents were burned at least once on the job in the past year and 58% were burned more than once in the past year. But several McDonald’s employees are saying their workplaces are excessively dangerous and workers are stuck paying the price. Over the past two weeks, McDonald’s workers in 19 cities have filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) due to severe burns they’ve received on the job.
Fast food kitchens are naturally going to be full of hazards like hot stoves and grills and boiling hot oil for fries. Workers say the real problems come when restaurants are understaffed and workers are being pressured to work faster and faster, making it more likely for workers to slip on a greasy floor or bump into a hot grill or pan. 46% of respondents in the Hart Research Association who were recently burned on the job said they were under pressure to work faster that it was safe to do and 36% said there weren’t enough workers available to safely handle the workload. In the same survey, 44% said understaffing and 39% said pressure to work faster were serious safety issues in their restaurants.
Several of the complaints state that their workplaces fail to provide adequate first aid to workers who are injured on the job. Brittney Berry, who has worked at a McDonald’s location in Chicago since 2011, says she severely burned her arm after she slipped on a wet floor and caught her arm on a hot grill while under pressure to work faster. Berry was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Her burn was severe enough to cause nerve damage and forced her to miss three weeks of work without pay. Instead of providing real first aid, her managers simply told her to put mustard on the burn.
Berry isn’t the only person to report having inappropriate first aid recommended to her. 33% of fast food workers reported being told to use something like butter, mustard, or mayonnaise to treat burns. Over a third of fast food workers say the first aid kit at their restaurant is either completely empty, understocked, or not immediately accessible.
Lack of training and improper protective gear are other factors that lead to burns. Martisee Campbell, a McDonald’s employee in Philadelphia, says he was never given proper training or protective gear for emptying the grease trap. Like Berry, Campbell says when one of his co-workers was burned while emptying the grease trap, they were simply told to put mayonnaise on the burn.
McDonald’s has issued a statement saying, “McDonald’s and its independent franchisees are committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in 14,000 McDonald’s Brand U.S. restaurants. We will review these allegations. It’s important to note that these complaints are part of a larger strategy orchestrated by activists targeting our brand and designed to generate media coverage.” The McDonald’s employees are being supported by Fight for $15, an organization lobbying for higher wages for fast food workers.