Course 613 - Young Worker Safety in Restaurants

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

Drive-Thru Safety

drive thru

The drive-thru area of a restaurant gives young workers the opportunity for direct contact with the public while also learning food service and money handling skills. However, they may also be exposed to the following hazards:

  • noise
  • strains and sprains
  • workplace violence
  • prolonged standing
  • car exhaust

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



Restaurant workers may be exposed to noise, especially while working in the drive-thru area. Young workers often wear headsets to hear orders when working at drive-up windows. Young workers may potentially be exposed to loud headset background noise while wearing headsets.

Possible Solutions

There are several things workers can do help reduce the level of noise in a drive-thru. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Fit headsets properly to your head.
  • Don’t turn headset volumes up excessively high.
  • See your doctor if you are experiencing ringing in your ears or problems with hearing.

Safe Work Practices

Employers can implement safe work practices to help prevent noise exposure, such as:

  • Use acoustical limiting devices in headsets. These types of headsets are designed to provide sufficient protection to the keep the noise levels below those required by OSHA.
  • Use good quality microphones to improve reception capabilities.
  • Ensure the headset fits the worker properly. Adjustable headsets work the best.
  • Reduce individual employee exposure time to loud noises by rotating workers through the drive-thru area.

Sprains and Strains

Install a drop box to deliver orders to customers.

Employees can be exposed to sprains and strains from tasks that require repetitive motions, such as excessive reaching, lifting, and leaning out of drive-thru windows to hand customers their orders.

Possible Solutions

Here are some ways to help decrease the likelihood of sprains and strains:

  • Avoid twisting while lifting.
  • Avoid overreaching. For example, you can walk food out to customers if they are parked too far away from the window.
  • Stay fit to help avoid injuries.

Safe Work Practices

Employers can do the following safe work practices to help prevent injuries:

  • Rearrange workstations to provide for easy access to items used most frequently.
  • Redesign drive-thru windows to alleviate employee reaching. For example, rather than having employees reach across a window to deliver food, you may want to install a drop box to deliver orders to customers.
  • Rotate workers through the drive-thru area to limit their exposure to excessive reaching.

Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is violence or the threat of violence against workers. It can range from threats, and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicides from behaviors either initiated by customers, other employees, and employers.

Many workplaces, like restaurants, can be a target for workplace violence because of the presence of cash, late work hours, and contact with the public. Young workers may also be exposed to workplace violence in restaurant drive-thru windows. In addition, sometimes the drive-thru is located in a structure removed from the main restaurant, isolating the teen from the support of fellow workers.

Possible Solutions

Here are some possible solutions to help decrease the likelihood of workplace violence in a restaurant:

  • Use drop-boxes, if available, to deliver food to customers, especially late at night.
  • Keep the back door locked unless you are receiving deliveries.

Safe Work Practices

There are several safe work practices your employer can do to protect you. Here are a few things:

  • Follow child labor laws that restrict workers younger than 16 years old from working after 7 p.m., except from June 1st through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.
  • Do not leave young workers alone at night to lockup.
  • Install bulletproof glass and limited access barriers for drive-through windows.
  • Increase workplace safety by installing video surveillance, alarm systems, and door detectors.
  • Increase lighting in low-lit areas, such as parking lots and around trash dumpsters.
  • Locate drive-thru windows within the same building as the restaurant, rather than in the parking lot by itself.

Prolonged Standing


Employees can be exposed to prolonged standing while working the drive-thru window. This can cause stress and strain to the workers’ back and legs.

Possible Solutions

To relieve stress and strain to workers’ backs and legs, try the following things:

  • Wear shoes with well-cushioned insteps and soles.
  • Avoid static postures by continually moving your position. Use the foot rest bar or a low stool to help alter your posture by raising one foot and then the other.

Safe Work Practices

Employers should consider implementing recommended safe work practices, including:

  • Provide stools or a foot rest bar at work stations.
  • Provide anti-fatigue mats. They help contract and expand muscles of the person standing on them increasing blood-flow and reducing fatigue.

Car Exhaust

Employees may be exposed to high levels of car exhaust in a drive-thru. Automobile exhaust contains harmful pollutants, mainly carbon monoxide which decreases the ability of the blood to absorb oxygen in the lungs. Inhaling high levels and concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause the following symptoms:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • flu-like symptoms
  • potential heart problems, including:
    • chest pain
    • irregular heart beat
    • cardiac arrest

Possible Solutions

Here is a possible solution to decrease the exposure to car exhaust:

  • Keep the drive-thru window closed as much as possible to limit exposure.

Safe Work Practices

Employers should consider implementing safe work practices, including:

  • Provide adequate space and ventilation.
  • Use a reverse-flow fan system to prevent exhaust from entering the interior drive-thru area.
  • Rotate workers to minimize the time spent in the drive-thru area.


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. These kinds of headsets work the best for drive-thru workers.

2. What was listed as a good safe work practice to help prevent overreaching at the drive-thru?

3. During non-summer months, workers younger than 16 years of age cannot work after _____.

4. Automobile exhaust contains harmful pollutants, mainly _____.

5. What was listed as a possible safe work practice to prevent illnesses from car exhaust?

Have a great day!

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