Barista Occupational Hazards

First of all I want to break down the role of the barista to:

1. Machine Operator
2. Service Operator
3. Customer Service Representative


These sections of the baristas role will give us clarity and cohesion as we discuss the hazards and joys (!) of being a baristi.

Secondly I would like to say that a barista is a career choice: one that often give flexibility in working hours and great level of enjoyment. While the barista is at its simplistic core pushing buttons she is also an artist who has passion in her work and pride too hopefully. We often take less pay and poor working conditions for the love of coffee. So bless you!

1. Machine Operator

  • Feet – As a machine operator you will be on your feet all day. It’s really important to wear good supportive shoes such as Merrill or Brooks and ask for a rubber matt where possible.

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  • Noise – The amplified noise of steam being directed to your ears is problematic. The safe volume for sustained noise (more than 30minutes) is 60 decibels. Most cafes operate above 70 so you need to be aware that this may affect your hearing in the long run.
  • Wrists – Turning the LaMarzocco handles is a hazard and so ensure you stretch frequently or switch to a more ergonomically designed machine such as a Synesso
  • dehydration – It’s important to keep your fluids up, especially where espresso is a diuretic
  • Skins – Remember you are working with hot metals and hot water under 1.5 atmospheres of pressure. As well as that you have chemicals to be aware of. I have found that Barrier Cream is helpful.
  • 2. Service Operator

    You are under a lot of pressure to get things done on time this can lead to emotional pressures as stress. I have seen more than a few baristas have almost a nervous breakdown: bad reviews on urbanspoon, megalomaniac bosses, the pressure of competition. Be aware of these emotional signs that you need a rest and need to talk to someone:

  • Withdrawal & Isolation – you are feeling the desire to be alone.
  • Obsessions – You are watching an unhealthy amount of television or drinking too much alcohol.
  • Anger & Anxiety – You feel angry and you don’t know why
  • All of these symptoms can be addressed in the following way:

    a) Self Awareness – First step is to admit to yourself that you are in emotional pain. “To Thine Own Self Be true” (Plato or Socrates)
    b) Make changes – Speak to a spouse or friend or even parents. Seek the help of counselling. Or take a break!
    c) Diet and Medication – Vitamin B and Magnesium supplements are powerful and will boost energy levels. Some people are not depressed; they simply are low on adrenal activity due to running on adrenalin all the time.

    3. Customer Service Representative

    You are the face of your cafe. Don’t be fooled into hiding behind your cape (namely apron!) you are in hospitality! You should be cleaning vacuuming, mopping too! And when it comes to customers you are their best friend. They are always right : almost! This is where ego can come in. You need to humble yourself and accept your role as a wholistic barista. You are all three parts: Machine Operator, Artist and Customer service rep. Here’s how to help:

  • Life Plan – Realise that this is one step in your glorious career. You may want to start your own cafe. Keep a clear vision of the future, remember it everyday. Do not get angry at God or the people around you when it takes time. Always assume your goals will cost 10x more and take 10x longer than you first imagined!
  • A final thought on Tax and Superannuation: be financially responsible. Often money worries cause the most problems. Talk to your accountant or visit Get rid of all credit cards and find a financial coach or business mentor.


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