MCDonalds Workers Getting Burned

McDonald’s french fries are cooked in vegetable oil heated to more than 335 degrees F. The hamburger grill is coated with hot grease.
Not surprisingly, burns are the most common injury in fast food restaurants.
Seventy-nine percent of workers were burned in the past year, most more than once, according to a Fast Food Workplace Safety survey by Hart Research Associates, released on March 16.
Bloomberg reports that 28 McDonald’s employees who say they were burned on the job have filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The employees, from19 different cities, are backed by the “Fight for $15” campaign, which disclosed some of their statements and photos of their burns.
“McDonald’s and its franchisees give precedence to other corporate goals over worker safety,” said Randy Rabinowitz, an occupational safety and health attorney advising the campaign. The complaints, filed over the past few weeks, are being made public, along with the survey, which was conducted for the National Council for Occupational Safety & Health, advocates for workers’ rights.
“McDonald’s and its independent franchisees are committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald’s Brand U.S. restaurants,” the company said in a statement. “We will review these allegations. It is 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 fast food chain is already struggling to improve its daily operations, from its menu, to its service, to its image. The protesters recently helped publicize a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company and allegations of tax avoidance in Europe. McDonald’s has denied both charges. The burn complaints are a new weapon in the battle for higher wages and more corporate accountability.
The workers allege that McDonald’s safety standards are loosely enforced. They say they aren’t given proper training or equipment to handle hot oil and grease in particular. Several say there are no grease aprons available, and only latex gloves keep the food safe, with little regard to employees’ safety. Cleaning the fryer seems especially dangerous. More than half the burns suffered during the past year happened there, according to the Hart survey.
The McDonald’s employees complain that managers push them to work too quickly. “If you don’t work fast enough, they give you less days on the schedule,” a worker from New Orleans wrote. Some workers say they have to clean the grill while it is still on, since letting it cool takes too long. And when there’s not enough staff, they have to move very quickly and often bump into hot pans.
When they get burned, some employees say, they don’t always get a lot of help. Bernard Giddings, a Philadelphia McDonald’s worker who filed a complaint, said in an e-mail: “Once I burned my arm so badly that I now have a scar, but when I asked my manager for burn cream, she just said, ‘Put mayonnaise on it, you’ll be good.’ ”
The franchisees operating the restaurants in New Orleans and Philadelphia didn’t respond to requests for comment.
OSHA agents have so far visited six of the McDonald’s named in the complaints. The agency has up to six months to complete its investigation of the restaurants and decide if a citation and fine is called for. A single violation deemed to be “serious” carries a maximum penalty of $7,000.
That may not seem like a lot to the franchisees or the company–the average McDonald’s restaurant had sales of $2.5 million in 2013, according to the trade magazine QSR. The real damage, the activists hope, will be to McDonald’s reputation.