Work Smart. Work Safe.
Keep your "Heads Up" and work safe!

How to survive your barista job

By Peter Brown

Image credit: “New Colleague” by stavos / Flickr

Image credit: “New Colleague” by stavos / Flickr

Cuts, bruises, concussions and scalded flesh: I’ve seen it all in my four years as a barista. It’s tough in the coffee business but you have to keep at the grind (pun intended). Being a barista is actually a very difficult job at times, but it’s also very rewarding—the fast pace that a café job demands is exhilarating. Exhilaration aside, there are a few things that can make your experience as a barista much safer.

  1. Practice safe caffeine intake.

We’ve all been there…you went to sleep much too late. Maybe you were up all night writing that term paper—despite the fact that you work in the morning. Whatever kept you up, you now feel like a walking trash can and your body is begging for release, for submission into the arms of sleep. But you must be strong. This is where it becomes very convenient that you work at a coffee house.

It’s time to caffeinate. You look lovingly at your cup of coffee; its steam envelops your face.

Image credit: "coffee steam 1" by waferboard / Flickr

Image credit: “coffee steam 1” by waferboard / Flickr

But, there’s an unfortunate truth that you’re probably too familiar with: caffeine doesn’t kick in right away. This can and will lead to drinking more caffeine in rapid succession (example: the time I had four cups of coffee in the first two hours of my shift). I probably don’t have to tell you that consuming too much caffeine is dangerous because it can lead to scary physical symptoms like irregular heartbeats. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can consume about 400 mg of caffeine per day safely. According to Starbucks’ nutrition guide, an espresso shot has 75mg, so you can probably have four espresso shots a day safely.

   2. Slow down.

I know, the job can become stressful. The line of cups seems to be longer than the Great Wall of China–so does the line of customers. You feel like you need to sprint around to work efficiently; you don’t, that’s how you hurt yourself (as I did a few years ago when I slipped on a puddle of water and almost gave myself a concussion).

In my experience as a barista, I’ve discovered that trying to do things too quickly makes you clumsy, and inevitably slows you down. Just breathe and make drinks at a reasonable pace. It all boils down to the fact that you’re only making coffee and if your safety means that it takes you an extra 20 seconds, then so be it.

    3. Be a positive person.

You will run out of cups. You will run out of sleeves. Heck, you will run out of coffee. But if you remain positive, everything will be okay. In most cases, no matter what you’re out of, as long as you demonstrate to a customer that you’re trying your best to provide them with quality service, they will notice and will be grateful for it. And if they don’t, it’s not your fault because you did everything you can. Be the bigger person and don’t let anyone turn you into a bitter barista.

     4. Wear safe clothing.

Wearing a uniform can be a total drag but, it’s usually there to protect you. Even if it’s not a part of your dress code:

A) Don’t wear open toe shoes (they say don’t play with fire, the same applies to hot liquids.) Closed shoes are like insurance for your feet; make sure they’re covered.

B) Don’t wear any dangly earrings, they could fall off. Also, personal bubbles don’t exist between baristas; there will be collisions. And when that does happen, you don’t want your hoops to get caught and potentially rip your ear open.

C) Don’t wear any shirts with overly long sleeves or pants with overly long legs for reasons similar to the dangly earrings. On the other hand, don’t wear anything too short or revealing because creepy customers will hit on you.

D) Don’t wear fake nails, you’ll lose them (possibly in a drink—yikes!)

    5. Always report an injury.

If you do hurt yourself, follow the injury protocol. Fill out the necessary forms so that you can be covered under the workers’ compensation board. Not sure where to find these? Talk to your boss.

    6. Make friends.

 All of the hazards involved with working in a café can be intimidating, but there’s also a surprising and rewarding payoff—making lifelong friends. The people I’ve worked alongside during my time as a barista are some of the closest friends I’ve ever had. Take the time to hang out outside of work. Organize a movie night. Turn a staff meeting into a potluck. The possibilities are endless.

Have you experienced unsafe caffeine intake or other hazards of working as a barista? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @HeadsUpAB

No Responses to “How to survive your barista job”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: