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Are Restaurants Required to Train Employees in First Aid?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 05, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Doing business in the food service industry comes with certain risks. Along with the normal profit-loss and customer satisfaction worries that all small businesses face, restaurant owners also need to be concerned with their customers' safety -- and not just from food poisoning or slip-and-falls. With eating comes the risk of choking, along with the subsequent risk of lawsuits if someone is inured or killed choking on food at your restaurant.

But are you legally required to train your restaurant employees in first aid, CPR, or the Heimlich maneuver?

Warning Signs

After a Colorado man choked to death during an eating challenge at a Voodoo Doughnut location in Denver, a 9News investigation discovered that state laws did not require first aid training for food service employees, nor did it provide legal protections for employees who might injure customers while trying to administer first aid or CPR. And the Mile High State is far from alone in this regard.

Just 14 states have laws specifically addressing aid to a choking victim in a restaurant or a similar food service business, and even then the most common requirement is that employers post a sign depicting food removal techniques. A report from Connecticut's Office of Legislative Research notes:

  • 10 states require the state or a local public health agency to design or approve the signs;
  • 7 states require the state public health agency to distribute signs to restaurants; and
  • 3 states have statutory provisions stating that there is no charge for the signs.

Specific Northwest Statutes

Only Oregon, coincidentally where Voodoo Doughnut is headquartered, requires restaurants that serve food to mandate that their employees be trained to provide first aid to help a choking victim. The training must be completed within a reasonable time after date of employment, be in accordance with a training program approved by the local public health authority, and be based on the Red Cross-approved method known as the "abdominal thrust" procedure. Oregon also provides that neither restaurants nor their employees can be liable for injuries stemming from "good faith" efforts to provide first aid or CPR.

Customer satisfaction and customer safety are a restaurant's primary concern. If you have more questions about what the law in your state requires in terms of customer safety, contact an experienced injury attorney today.

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