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Restaurant Safety for Teen Workers

April 21, 2021
June 21, 2023
the chef conducts a briefing of employees in the restaurant

For teenagers, finding their first job is certainly an important milestone in life. It represents a step towards maturity and adulthood, and offers them the ability to begin to earn and save their own money. For millions of teenagers across the United States, their first job is often in a restaurant setting, working as a waiter/waitress, cook, dishwasher, or other related job. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “restaurants and other eating and drinking businesses employ 11.6 million people in the United States. Nearly 30 percent of these employees are under 20 years of age. Many young workers' first work experience is in the restaurant industry.”

While employing young people has become the norm in the restaurant industry, most restaurant owners and managers know that this also comes with a certain level of risk. Due to their relative lack of job experience, younger workers suffer from higher rates of job-related injuries. In fact, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), specifically mentions the sharp knives and slippery floors in restaurants as potential workplace hazards for younger workers. Of course, limited or no prior work experience and a lack of safety training can also contribute to high injury rates.

Below, we offer a few suggestions for youth worker restaurant safety, including OSHA restaurant requirements, and a restaurant safety checklist that can help reduce the frequency of accidents and injuries among younger workers.

Tips for Youth Worker Restaurant Safety

A national sample of hospitals estimated that approximately 44,800 occupational injuries to teen restaurant industry workers were treated in hospital emergency rooms across the United States over a two year period. Of those injuries, approximately 28,000 (63 percent) occurred to teens employed in hamburger, pizza, and other fast-food establishments.

One of the best ways to improve restaurant safety for youth workers is to clearly identify the specific hazards in the workplace environment, and offer training and policies that seek to limit those hazards. In a restaurant setting, these hazards and solutions may include: 

  • Slippery Floors: Require employees to wear sturdy non-slip, footwear, and use non-slip mats in key areas. 
  • Sharp Objects-Knives, Graters, Shredders, or Slicers: Require the use of steel mesh gloves when operating. 
  • Burns from Deep Fat Fryers, Hot Liquids or Heated Surfaces: Train on proper distance when cooking with hot oil and liquids. 
  • Electrical Shock from Appliances: Train employees to not plug in electrical equipment with wet hands and to identify any frayed cords or defective equipment.
  • Cleaning Chemicals: Offer training before using chemicals and read labels before using. Also provide personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves and eye protection.
  • Problems from Extended Standing: Offer proper footwear and invest in anti-fatigue mats for younger workers. 
  • Carbon Monoxide from Car Exhaust in Drive-Thru: Enact a policy to keep the drive-thru window closed as often as possible, to limit exposure to exhaust. Also, install fans for proper ventilation. 
  • CCTV Safety Program

Restaurant Safety Checklist

Another great way to improve restaurant safety for teen workers is to use a restaurant safety checklist. A checklist is a useful evaluation tool that can allow your employees and managers to quickly identify and resolve issues that could pose a health or safety risk. The exact elements on your restaurant safety checklist will depend on the particulars of your business.

However, every restaurant safety checklist should ensure that potentially dangerous appliances are in proper working order, that electrical equipment is undamaged and operational, and that other potential hazards are identified.

You can find an example of a restaurant safety checklist here. Furthermore, the “Young Worker Safety in Restaurants E-Tool” offered by OSHA is another great resource to help you develop specific strategies for improving restaurant safety for your teen workers.

Protect Your Workplace With Work-Fit

Lastly, Work-Fit  is a nationwide leader in onsite injury prevention and management for your workforce. We have years of experience working with all different types of businesses to identify and mitigate potential workplace hazards. In the specific case of restaurant safety for teen workers, our injury prevention program uses an upstream model to encourage preventive habits among your staff that can also increase employer healthcare savings.

This model is the first line of defense when combating frequent on-the-job injuries. Our program focuses on preventing injuries through tailor-made programming for our clients, relationship-building with employees and management, feedback from employees and work practice assessments to determine the best course of action for your staff.

If you are interested in developing a tailor-made strategy to reduce the potential injuries for your teenage workers, contact Work-Fit today to learn about how we can help your team!


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