Why your restaurant staff needs exit sign training
For exit signs to do their job, employees and management need to be aware of not only their placement, but how to properly maintain them as well.
By Blaine Dumke, Commercial Lines Account Executive
Prior to diving into the insurance business, I worked in the hospitality industry for more than 10 years, primarily in restaurants. I held positions from line cook to general manager.
While I was "shown the door" once by a fiery chef, I never really thought about how important properly marked exit signs were until I worked in insurance.
For exit signs to do their job, employees and management need to be aware of not only their placement, but how to properly maintain them as well. My examples come from the restaurant industry, but they would apply to other hospitality related operations as well.
Properly marked exit signs help protect a restaurant's customers as well as its employees. Signage must be present in both the "front of the house" (dining room) and the "back of the house" (kitchen).
From an occupational safety standpoint, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has set standards for "means of egress." There are very specific standards for exit signs included. Your management and employees need to understand the full set of maintenance, safeguards and operational features for exit routes according to OSHA.
When you read through the list of standards, you likely will not be surprised to see things like this: "Each exit must be clearly visible and marked by a sign reading "Exit".
But did you know there are also standards for the size of the letters in the word "Exit"? How about the amount of light that illuminates the exit sign?
There are also standards for keeping the exit ways clear of obstruction, including decoration. While your staff may not be in control of what type of exit sign is displayed, every person on your team needs to be aware of and follow requirements to keep the exits clear and unobstructed.
Take the time to read through the OSHA standards for exits. Then, make time to educate your entire restaurant staff.
Staff training of exit signs and exit routes is pretty straightforward, but easy to overlook. Having an organized training program with regular reinforcement could help ensure signage is effective.
Exit signs could be pointed out when performing new-hire orientations. And a great time to reinforce the importance of properly marked exit signs could be during quarterly staff meetings.
A good idea for both the "front of the house" and the "back of the house" daily management walk through forms may be to include a reminder to check exit signs throughout the building.
Also, if the restaurant is equipped with emergency lighting, these fixtures should be tested monthly to make sure they are functioning properly, and batteries are still working. A good time to do this could be during monthly inventory.
Finally, from an insurance perspective, it may be easy to overlook the importance of properly marked and functioning exit signs when looking at an operation like a restaurant that has many other risk related concerns. However, by simply observing the condition of a restaurant's exit signs and the areas around them, I think you may get a good idea as to how the operation is run. The bottom line is that properly maintained exit signage is critical in an emergency, and if it is in good working condition, it may be able to help save the lives of employees and guests.
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