Course 613 - Young Worker Safety in Restaurants

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

Clean-up Safety


The clean-up area of a restaurant gives young workers the opportunity to learn clean-up duties while also handling various equipment and products. However, they may be exposed to the following hazards:

  • electrical hazards
  • strains and sprains
  • hazardous chemicals
  • slips/trips/falls
  • burns and scalds
  • cuts

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

Electrical Hazards

Unplugging or plugging in electrical appliances with wet hands or while standing on a wet surface is not safe.

Potential Hazard

Young workers may be exposed to electric shock or electrocution hazards during clean-up due to contact with the following:

  • faulty electrical appliances or contact with an energized source
  • worn electric cords, or improperly used or damaged extension cords
  • improperly wired or ungrounded outlets
  • faulty equipment and wiring
  • damaged receptacles and connectors
  • wet clean-up processes
  • unsafe work practices

Possible Solutions

There are many things you can do to prevent electrical shocks or electrocution. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Identify and report any workplace hazards or unsafe working conditions to supervisors.
  • Participate in any training meetings your employer provides.

Safe Work Practices

Employers should evaluate safeguards and other safe work practices to help eliminate electrical hazards. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) receptacles for your protection. Encourage employers to install these lifesaving and inexpensive devices.
  • Educate yourself about electrical hazards. Understand how potential electrical accidents may occur and how to help avoid them. For example:
    • Do not put your fingers or other materials on the prongs of a plug while you are inserting it into an outlet.
    • Remove plugs from receptacles by pulling the plug, not the cord. Pulling on the cord could damage the cord and increase the shock risk.
    • Do not use damaged cords or receptacles. This may also promote shocks.
  • Understand touching the outside of a metal outlet box with one hand while plugging in an appliance with the other hand may complete the electrical "circuit." This forces the current through you and exposes you to possible shock or electrocution.
  • Do not plug in electrical equipment with wet hands or while touching a wet or damp surface.
  • Use proper plugs and receptacles to prevent energization until the insertion is complete.

Electrical Hazards: Safe Work Practices (Continued)

Young workers should also know the emergency procedures and the policies for electrical emergencies, including:

Keeping cords above ground in wet environments reduces the chance of electrical shock and reduces wear and tear on cords.
  • Learn how to shut off the current in case of an emergency.
  • Properly label electrical control panels.
  • Turn the power off before touching an electrocution victim.
  • Never use faulty equipment or damaged receptacles and/or connectors.
  • Never plug in electrical equipment with wet hands or while touching a wet or damp surface.
  • Learn how to perform CPR.
  • Properly ground all electrical service near sources of water. [1910.304(g)(6)(vi)(C)(5)]
  • Electrical equipment shall be free from recognized hazards. [1910.303(b)(1)]
  • Tag out and remove from service all damaged receptacles and portable electrical equipment. [1910.334(a)(2)(ii)]
  • Repair all damaged receptacles and portable electrical equipment before placing them back into service. [1910.334(a)(2)(ii)]
  • Train employees to not plug or unplug energized equipment when their hands are wet. [1910.334(a)(5)(i)]
  • Keep aisles and passageways clear. Provide floor plugs or ceiling plugs for equipment so power cords do not need to run across pathways. [1910.22(b)(1)].

Real-Life Accident

On August 3, 1986, a 25-year-old manager of a North Carolina restaurant was cleaning the floor of the kitchen when an accident occurred. The restaurant was closed, and the restaurant manager's wife and two year-old daughter were waiting in the dining area for him to finish.

The victim, who was wearing tennis shoes, had put soap and water on the floor and was walking towards the dining area when he slipped and fell. As he fell, he tried to catch himself and he grabbed the handle of a commercial refrigerator nearby. The refrigerator had a ground fault and was not grounded (the cord did not have a ground prong). The ground fault apparently was the result of excessive wear on the insulation of the conductors that supplied electricity to the compressor unit. These conductors were exposed at a cutout hole in the case of the refrigerator, were not protected from abrasion, and were not protected by a strain relief.

The victim's wife responded to the noise in the kitchen and tried to separate the victim from the refrigerator. She was shocked but was able to separate the victim from the refrigerator and drag him into the dining area. She started CPR and contacted the father of the victim (the owner of the restaurant), who called the emergency medical service (EMS). The EMS responded approximately ten minutes after being contacted; however, the time interval between the accident and notification of the EMS could not be determined. The victim died from undetermined causes.

Sprains and Strains

Mopping, washing dishes, clearing tables, and emptying garbage can all expose young restaurant workers to strains and sprains. These tasks usually involve repetitive reaching, overreaching, and lifting. This can cause neck and back strains and sprains, especially if performing these tasks with awkward postures.

Possible Solutions

You can take the following precautions to help prevent strains and sprains while washing dishes:

  • Place an object such as a plastic basin in the bottom of the sink to raise the surface up while washing items.
  • Rearrange work spaces, so it is easier to reach for supplies used continouously and to prevent over-reaching and awkward back, shoulder, and wrist postures.
  • Reduce overhead reaching; try to keep reaches at chest to waist level.
  • Don't overload dish racks.
  • Rack heavier items, such as plates, closest to you.
  • Empty and sort cutlery bins before they are full.
  • When heavy-duty cleaning, use tools with good grips.
  • Vary your activities to space out repetitive tasks.
  • Vary your technique to use different muscle groups; alternate between left and right hands.

Safe Work Practices

Your employer can implement the following safe work practices to help prevent injuries during table clean-up:

  • Use containers to carry dirty dishes. Be careful not to overfill containers.
    • Provide small rather than large containers to limit the amount of dirty dishes that can be stacked and carried at one time.
  • If space permits, provide carts to put dirty dishes and heavy bussing containers on, rather having workers carry them.
    • Choose carts with large wheels that roll easily. This will prevent strain/sprain injuries to employees from pushing or pulling heavy carts.
  • If space permits, decrease the distance workers must carry containers. Provide close "stations" to put bussing containers on. They should be located near the serving and clean-up area so the young worker does not have to return dirty dishes all the way to the kitchen area.
  • Leave outdoor furniture outside at night. This may substantially decrease the amount of lifting required to set up and break down outside eating areas.
  • Instruct employees to get help when moving tables and chairs or other heavy objects, rather than lifting alone.

Sprains and Strains: Safe Work Practices (Continued)

Handling bag with open frame and wheels

If you are required to remove garbage, here are some tips to help prevent sprains and strains:

  • Reduce lifting during garbage removal tasks by using garbage handling bags with wheels or garbage cans with wheels for garbage collection when possible.
    • Handling bags have a frame with one side open to allow for easy disposal of garbage without reaching into and pulling bags up and out. The bags should be able to slide off the cart without lifting.
    • Limit the size and weight of these bags and provide handles to decrease lifting hazards.
  • Use garbage cans that have a frame versus a solid can to promote ease of emptying. This will prevent plastic bag liners from sticking to the inside of the can. If the garbage bag gets stuck in the can, you must lift a lot more weight to release the vacuum than just the weight of the garbage.
  • Use anti-cling products that can be applied to the inside of your garbage can to prevent the plastic bag from sticking to the inside of the can.
  • Limit the size of garbage containers to limit the weight of the load employees must lift and dump.
  • Place receptacles in unobstructed and easy-to-reach places.
  • Install dumpsters at or below grade level.

Hazardous Chemicals


Potential Hazard

Young restaurant workers can be exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals, such as the following:

  • oven cleaners
  • floor cleaners
  • pesticides
  • disinfectants
  • drain cleaners
  • soaps
  • detergents
  • latex

Hazardous Chemical Hazards

Hazardous chemicals can cause several types of injuries. Here is a closer look:

  • Soaps and detergents may cause allergic reactions and skin irritation.
  • Broken skin from soap or detergent irritation may provide an avenue for infection or injury if exposed to chemical hazards.
  • Drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and grill cleaners solutions and sprays can be caustic and can cause skin burns and eye and skin irritations.
  • Ammonia, used as a cleaning agent, and chlorine solutions, used as a disinfectant in dishwashing, can cause skin, eye, and nose irritations. Caution: Mixing chlorine and ammonia solutions will result in a chemical reaction and may release deadly chlorine gas.
  • Latex gloves, worn to protect the hands from chemicals, may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some young workers.

Possible Solutions

  • Read the product label and follow instructions and recommendations listed on the label.
  • Use the least toxic cleaning products possible.
  • Use any personal protective equipment provided by your employer such as gloves, eye goggles, and special aprons.
  • gloves
  • Be sure you are properly trained in the need for and use of personal protective equipment.
  • Use appropriate gloves to protect your hands from chemicals and sharp objects.
  • After removing gloves, wash your hands with mild soap and water, and dry thoroughly.
  • Avoid latex gloves if you have been diagnosed with latex allergy.
  • Ask your employer about possible toxic effects of the chemicals you are required to use. You have the right to read Safety Data Sheets (SDS). SDS provide employers and employees with information to protect themselves from hazardous chemical exposures and to work safely with chemical products.
  • Do not mix chlorine bleach and ammonia products together. This combination will create a toxic gas.

Safe Work Practices

Your employer should consider some of the following safe work practices to protect you against hazardous chemicals:

  • Use cleaning chemicals that are not considered hazardous.
  • Consider automating the dispensing of cleaning chemicals whenever possible to avoid employee contact.
  • Limit employee contact with dishwashing detergents by providing machines with automated detergent dispensers.
  • Make sure the chemicals that are not compatible with each other are not stored together.
  • Always label cleaning bottles and containers. Never remove products from the original bottle without properly labeling the new container.


Young restaurant workers can be injured due to slips, trips, and falls while doing a variety of tasks, including:

  • carrying trays or bins of dirty dishes
  • washing dishes
  • mopping floors
  • emptying trash
  • cleaning
  • spraying down parking lots

Possible Solutions

There are many things you and your employer can do to help prevent injuries from slips, trips, and falls. Here are a few suggestions:

Slip-resistant “over” shoes
  • Keep passageways and walkways free of clutter and crowding.
  • Be sure rugs and mats are in place.
  • Wipe up spills immediately.
  • Do not overfill bussing containers. If containers are overfilled, workers can focus too much on keeping everything inside the container that they forget where they are going and trip and fall over items in the way.

Safe Work Practices

Your employer should consider the following safe work practices to help prevent injuries:

  • Consider implementing a shoe policy program. The program could focus on employees wearing proper non-slip footwear.
  • Consider providing non-slip shoe covers for employees when they perform greasy tasks.
  • Ensure spills are reported and cleaned up immediately.

Burns and Scalds


Young restaurant workers can be exposed to burns and scalds in a variety of different tasks, including loading or unloading automatic dishwashers, continuous-feed dishwashers, and glass washers.

Possible Solutions

Here are some possible solutions to decrease the likelihood of burns and scalds:

  • Do not unload dishes or glasses until they are cooled.
  • Avoid steam; it can burn.
  • Open hot water faucets slowly to avoid splashes.
  • Test water temperatures in sinks before sticking your hands into them.


Workers can be at risk for cuts while performing various tasks, including:

  • cleaning up broken glass
  • handling sharp utensils
  • clearing tables
  • washing dishes
  • cleaning restrooms

Possible Solutions

Here are some ways to decrease the chance of cuts:

  • Use any personal protective equipment your employer provides, including special gloves for clean-up duties.
  • Use a broom and dustpan to clean up broken glass; do not use your hands.
  • Do not store knives and other sharp objects in sinks because an unsuspecting person could reach in and get cut.

Safe Work Practices

Your employer should implement some of the following safe work practices to help prevent cuts:

  • Train all employees to respond to any situation where used needles are discovered by avoiding contact and calling their supervisor.
  • Consider providing needle disposable containers in restaurant bathrooms for guests who self-administer injectable medications.
  • Send any employee who sustains a needlestick injury from a sharp that has human blood for emergency medical evaluation.


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. When you touch the outside of a metal outlet box while plugging in an appliance, what could happen to you?

2. Why should cords be kept above ground in wet environments?

3. It is necessary to use garbage cans with a frame, rather than a solid can to make emptying easier. Which of the following is another reason for using framed garbage cans?

4. _____ and _____ can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation.

5. The combination of _____ and _____ can create a toxic gas.

Have a great day!

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