Restaurant Industry Safety & Health - Young Worker Safety

Young man wearing gloves a hat and an apron working near a fryer. Caption: Young workers who cook in restaurants are especially at risk of burn injuries while cooking with or cleaning deep fat fryers or vents above fryers. Burns can occur from contact with the fryer itself or from hot splashing oil, or when straining the oil or moving the fryer.Information for:

  • Young Workers (under 20-25 years of age).
  • Supervisors/Managers.

Many youths' first work experience is in the restaurant industry.  Approximately 30% of workers employed by restaurants and other food and beverage service businesses in the United States are younger than 20 years.

Young workers are exposed to many of the same occupational risks as adult workers but are twice as likely to be injured for various reasons.  They are also more likely to get hurt within the first six to twelve months.  Some injuries are serious enough to cause life-long disability, chronic pain, scarring, sensory loss, decreased range of motion, limited-activity days, and absences from work or school.  Tragically, some work-related injuries even result in death.  
Inexperience, lack of safety training, unwillingness to ask questions, a sense of invincibility, distractions (thinking of homework, that new car, social activities, etc), and unsafe work practices put young workers at high risk for injury.  Other stresses in the restaurant business, such as pressure from pace of work, organizational demands to prioritize customer service, and interacting with hostile customers and with criminals during robberies and assaults, may also contribute to increased risks.

When young workers learn about worker rights and employer responsibilities, they may be more likely to ask questions about safety or call attention to needed changes in working conditions when they discover a workplace hazard.

Be sure to refer to the sections "Front-of-the-House," "Back-of-the-House," "Office/Administrative," and "Outgoing Deliveries" for information and resources addressing the specific hazards of your job responsibilities and tasks.

More help from L&I

For general information, call 1-800-423-7233.

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