Being a barista is cool, sure, but it’s also an incredibly physical profession that takes a toll on your body. Being on your feet all day can lead to back problems, the potential for a slip and fall from wet floors is ever-present, and there are any number of machines (and their many surfaces) pumping out boiling-to-near-boiling water to leave all manner of fun shaped burn marks on your hands and arms. It’s dangerous on the that side of the counter.
And a new report from AmTrust confirms just how dangerous the barista profession is. According to the report, coffee shops and cafes have the most time lost due to injury out of all restaurant types, and the leading cause of café-based injury? Barista Wrist.
In their first ever Restaurant Risk Report, AmTrust Financial Services—a US-based workers compensation insurer—surveyed over 84,000 restaurant claims made being 2013 and 2017 that resulted in loss payments. They found that in terms of time lost, cafes are the most dangerous places to work in the restaurant industry, with 45% more time lost than other areas.
The leading cause of this time lost is Barista Wrist (or Bawrister, as I presume the Australians call it). A repetitive motion injury, Barista Wrist is the result of tamping—the thing baristas do hundreds of times a day—using an unnatural, not ergonomic wrist position. And according to the Restaurant Risk Report, Barista Wrist injuries are associated with an “average of 366 days to return to work,” almost three times that of the next largest class of injury, “struck or injured by” with 130.7.
To help reduce incidents of Barista Wrist, the report make the following suggestions: work in a neutral posture, reduce excessive force, keep everything within easy reach, work at a proper counter height, reduce excessive motions, minimize pressure points, move, exercise, and stretch, and maintain an all-around comfortable environment.
So while you may romanticize pouring pretty pictures with milk for the handsome artist or connecting with a regular by poring over every nuance both in the taste and production of a single origin brew, being a coffee professional isn’t always the bohemian dream job. It’s also labor, and it can take its toll.
Top image via AmTrust