Course 613 - Young Worker Safety in Restaurants

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Serving Safety

The serving area of a restaurant gives young workers an opportunity to interact directly with the customer while also learning food service and money handling skills. However, young workers in this area may also be exposed to following hazards:

  • strains and sprains
  • slips/trips/falls
  • burns and scalds
  • workplace violence
  • knives and cuts

This module will take a closer look at all of these hazards, plus some possible solutions to stay safe.

Strains and Sprains

Potential Hazard

Avoid over-reaching across tables or booths.

Young workers often serve the food in restaurants. Serving and bussing tables, especially while using awkward postures, may lead to back, neck, and shoulder strains and sprains.

Specific potential hazards include the following:

  • balancing too many plates or glasses while serving or clearing tables
  • balancing or lifting heavy trays above shoulder height
  • lifting large and overfilled containers of dirty dishes
  • repetitive reaching to serve customers or to clear tables
  • moving and lifting tables and chairs to accommodate customers

Possible Solutions

Here are some techniques to help prevent sprains and strains:

  • Avoid awkward postures if you must carry trays, plates, or beverages. If you serve with awkward postures, such as unsupported elbow and finger postures, it can increase your injury risk.
  • Limit the number of plates or items you carry. When you carry more than a couple items, it puts extreme strain on your arms and back.
  • Use both of your hands to carry items such as coffee pots or water jugs. Carry them with your elbows close to your body.
  • Carry plates with your elbows close to your body to decrease the strain on your arms and back.
  • Balance the load evenly. You should put heavier items in the center of the tray.
  • Make sure trays are serviceable, clean, dry, and without defect before using.

Employers can do the following to help prevent injuries:

  • If space permits, use serving carts to carry food. Employers should not require workers to carry heavy trays over their heads.
  • If space permits, provide workers with a server's station close to the serving area.


Potential Hazard

Slips, trips, and falls can happen in the serving area while young workers are performing in any of the following areas:

  • around ice bins which can be slippery
  • in busy and congested areas
  • walking or running on slippery or uneven floor surfaces
  • carrying dishes around blind corners or stairs

Possible Solutions

Here are some ways to help decrease the chance of slips, trips, and falls:

  • Immediately wipe up any ice or other items (such as food spills) that fall on the floor.
  • Wear non-slip shoes. Do not wear sandals or open-toed shoes or shoes made out of canvas.
  • Carry items only at a height you can safely see over.
Alert workers to step-ups and step-downs by using hazard tape or other warning signs.

Safe Work Practices

Employers should consider implementing the following safe work practices:

  • Keep passageways and walkways free of clutter.
  • Decrease overcrowding by using more supply stations or carts at convenient locations.
  • Provide good lighting, especially in serving and preparation areas.
  • Use hazard tape or other warning signs to help prevent trips and falls.
  • Use windows on swinging doors to see if someone is coming out.

Burns and Scalds

Potential Hazard

Burns can happen while young workers are serving or preparing hot foods or drinks. They can also occur while they are operating machinery that makes hot beverages, such as coffee, tea, or espresso.

Possible Solutions

Protect your hands while carrying hot plates.

There are several things you can do to help prevent burns while working in a restaurant. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be properly trained when preparing hot items. Understand how to use safely the equipment you will be required to use.
  • Use caution when making hot drinks or using machines that use hot liquids. Don't stick your hands in areas where hot coffee or hot liquids are dispensed.
  • Do not remove a coffee pot until the coffee is completely brewed.
  • Use trays to carry hot plates.
  • Use a waiter's cloth or hot pads to protect your arms or hands when carrying hot plates or trays.
  • Wear protective equipment (hot pads, mitts, aprons) provided for your use while preparing hot items.
  • Do not reach over table candles while serving or removing food from tables.
  • Do not use wet towels to grab or hold hot items.
  • Items heated in a microwave will continue to cook or heat even after the microwave turns off.
  • Receive basic first aid training for the treatment of burns.

Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is violence, or the threat of violence, against workers. It can range from threats and verbal issues to physical assaults and even homicides.

Potential Hazard

Violence can occur in restaurants due to the presence of cash, the late work hours, and contact with the public.

Possible Solutions

Here are some possible solutions to help prevent workplace violence at a restaurant:

  • Keep the cash register closed when you are not using it.
  • Keep the cash register in a place where other employers can see it.
  • Do not count cash in front of customers.
  • Create specific lock-up procedures for all employees. For example, everyone should leave the restaurant at the same time.
  • Only unlock back doors when you receive a delivery.
  • Create and implement a violence prevention program, specific to your establishment. The plan should indicate how employees should notify local law enforcement agencies in case of an emergency.
  • Train employees to follow the safety plan when they are dealing with unsatisfied customers.
  • Instruct employees in reporting and logging incidents of threats or violence.
  • Post signs that say, "No more than $30 in the cash register at all times."
  • Install a panic button under the counter to quickly notify the police in case of an emergency.
  • Increase workplace security by installing one or more of the following:
    • video surveillance
    • survelliance
    • extra lighting around dimly lit areas (such as trash dumpsters and parking lots)
    • alarm systems
    • door detectors
    • bullet-resistant barriers where appropriate
  • Use the "buddy system" when jobs require employees to be outside after dark. Use an escort for anyone who has a shift that ends late.
  • Keep the back doors locked and set regular times for deliveries. Use panic bars on exit doors. They can be locked, but employees will still be able to exit safely if they need to.

Knives and Cuts

Potential Hazard

Young workers frequently use knives in the serving area. Servers may be expected to use knives to cut bread. Sometimes, broken glass also creates a hazard in the serving area.

Possible Solutions

Do not use a glass to scoop ice, as seen in this picture.

Here are some possible solutions to help prevent cuts in the serving area:

  • Do not use a glass to scoop ice. Instead, use a metal or plastic ice scoop for placing ice in glasses.
  • Do not pick up broken glass with your hands; use a broom and a dustpan.
  • Use cutting boards for safe cutting and chopping.
  • Focus your attention on the cutting task while using a knife or other sharp utensil. Distractions increase your risk of getting cut.
  • Learn to use a knife safely:
    • Cut in the direction away from your body.
    • Keep your fingers and thumbs out of the way of the cutting line.
  • Place dirty knives in a designated container for cleaning, rather than storing in sinks. Wear heavy-duty gloves while cleaning sharp utensils.

Safe Work Practices

Consider implementing safe work practices to help prevent cuts, including:

  • Dull knives may slip and cause injuries. Therefore, keep them sharpened and in good condition. Tell workers when knives are newly sharpened.
  • Train employees on the safe handling, use, and storage of knives.
  • Employees should store all knives with the blades all facing in one direction.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. How should you carry items such as coffee pots or water jugs?

2. Which of the following area is the most common place for slips, trips, and falls in a restaurant?

3. Why should you be extra careful when removing items from the microwave?

4. When should you use an escort for employees after their shift?

5. When should you use glass to scoop ice?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.