By Bob Katzen

The Public Health Committee held a hearing on a proposal expanding the current law that requires restaurants with more than 25 seats to have on the premises an employee trained in manual procedures to remove food lodged in a customer’s throat.

The measure would make the requirements apply to all restaurants regardless of their seating capacity. The measure exempts take-out only restaurants and food trucks. It also eliminates the option of having a manual device on the premises for removing stuck food because critics say it has been determined that such devices are dangerous. Another provision prohibits any person who has been properly trained from being held liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions provided during the emergency assistance.

Supporters noted that Choke-Save classes are given by the American Red Cross and are inexpensive. They are also often offered by municipal Departments of Health and Human Services.

“[This bill], known as the ‘Choke Save’ bill, removes the 25-person threshold to require choke response training for restaurant employees because someone can choke as easily in a smaller venue as a larger one,” said sponsor Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton). “This bill will save lives by ensuring that restaurant employees will be able to respond to a choking emergency immediately, rather than delaying a response until emergency personnel might arrive.”

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