Course 613 - Young Worker Safety in Restaurants

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

Cooking Safety


The cooking area of a restaurant gives young workers the opportunity to develop cooking skills, while learning to handle equipment. Young workers in this area may also be exposed to the following hazards:

  • deep fat fryers
  • burns
  • strains and sprains
  • fire hazards
  • heat hazards
  • slips/trips/falls
  • electrical hazards

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

Deep Fat Fryers

deep fryer

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.

Workers may also be exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning from malfunctioning exhaust systems on portable fryer units. Symptoms include headaches, confusion, nausea, and dizziness.

Possible Solutions

There are several things you can do to help prevent burns from deep fat fryers. Here are a few suggestions:

fire extinguisher
Use Class K fire extinguisher to extinguish hot oil/grease fires.
  • Use caution when working around hot oil.
  • Get trained in the proper use and maintenance of your deep fryer.
  • Keep floor surfaces clean and dry to prevent slipping. Wear slip-resistant shoes. Observe all safety procedures and wear all protective equipment provided while preparing hot items.
  • Use gloves and scrapers provided by your employer.
  • Use the correct grease level and cooking temperatures for your deep fryer.
  • Avoid reaching over or climbing on top of fryers and other hot surfaces. Clean vents when the oil is cool.
  • Do not spill water or ice into oil.
  • Do not overheat the oil; use only the manufacturer’s recommended cooking temperatures.
  • Extinguish hot oil/grease fires with a class K fire extinguisher.

Safe Work Practices

Employers might want to implement the following safe work practices:

  • Consider replacing older deep fryer models with newer models that have exhaust vents closer to the fryer.
  • Use the appropriate quality oil for your fryer.
  • Install slip-resistant flooring near hot surfaces and cooking appliances.
  • Educate staff and management to recognize and respond to carbon monoxide poisoning.


Burn injuries are common among teen employees in restaurants. Young workers who work as fry cooks are at special risk for burn injuries. Factors such as inexperience and the pressure to "keep up" during busy periods can lead to potential accidents. Other hazards include exposure to:

  • hot oil, grease, and steam from hot surfaces
  • hot food and beverages
  • equipment, including stoves, grills, and steamers
short apron
Shortened apron

Possible Solutions

Be sure to follow all the safety procedures and wear all protective equipment provided by your employer and be trained in the proper use of equipment, such as the following:

  • Do wear long-sleeved cotton shirts and pants when cooking. A clean, dry, and properly worn apron or uniform can protect you from burns and hot oil splashes.
  • Do not cook without wearing protective clothing.
  • Use appropriate hand protection when hands are exposed to hazards, such as cuts, lacerations, and thermal burns. Use oven mitts or pot holders when handling hot items.
  • proper apron
    Proper length apron
  • Learn to use equipment and personal protective equipment properly.
  • Check hot foods on stoves or in the microwave carefully. Uncover a container of steaming materials by lifting the lid open away from your face.
  • Avoid overflowing pots and pans.
  • Place sealed cooking pouches in boiling water carefully to prevent splashing.
  • Do not lean over pots of boiling liquid.

Safe Work Practices

Employers should implement the following safe work practices to help prevent burns:

  • Follow child labor laws that don’t permit workers younger than 16 to cook, except at soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars, and cafeteria serving counters.
  • Assess tasks to identify potential worksite hazards and provide the proper personal protective equipment.
  • Require employees to use appropriate hand protection when exposed to hazards such as cuts, lacerations, and thermal burns.

Strains and Sprains


Workers who cook in restaurants have to deal with strains and sprains due to prolonged standing and repetitive reaching while cooking and turning food on a hot grill or stove surface.

  • Static postures may occur as cooks continuously stand in one position while cooking or preparing food, causing pooling of blood in the lower extremities, muscle fatigue, and pain.
  • Prolonged standing on hard work surfaces such as concrete can create contact trauma and pain in the feet.
  • Awkward neck postures can lead to neck strains and muscle stiffness if a cook constantly tilts the head downward or upward to cook food.
  • Repeatedly lifting the arms or over-reaching can irritate the tendons or bursa of the shoulder, possibly leading to arm and shoulder strain.

Possible Solutions


Identify strain and sprain hazards in your restaurant and find ways to decrease them by using ergonomic solutions, such as:

  • Avoid static postures by changing your position. Use a foot rest bar or low stool to help change your posture.
  • Use anti-fatigue mats on hard work surfaces. They help contract and expand the muscles and increase the blood flow and reduce worker fatigue.
  • Wear shoes with well-cushioned insteps and soles.
  • Minimize reaching by organizing your work environment so most cooking processes can be completed within easy reach and while keeping your elbows close to your body.

Fire Hazards


Workers are exposed to fire hazards in restaurants from heat-producing equipment such as burners, ovens and grills due to:

  • working around open flames
  • un-emptied grease traps (possible grease fires)
  • dirty ducts (possible flue fires)
  • improper storage of flammable items
  • faulty or frayed electrical cords
  • poor housekeeping

Possible Solutions

There are many possible solutions to prevent fires in a restaurant:

  • Never carry or move oil containers when oil is hot or on fire.
  • Empty grease traps frequently. Do not let them overflow.
  • Understand the fire safety procedures in your restaurant, including how to call for help.
    • NOTE: If you are working in a commercial kitchen, make sure you know the location and how to manually activate the cooking appliance fire suppression system.
  • Do not store flammable items near heat-producing equipment or open flames.
  • If you catch fire, STOP, DROP, and ROLL.

Employer Solutions

A fire is the most common type of emergency for which restaurants must plan for. A critical decision when planning is whether or not employees should fight a small fire with a portable fire extinguisher or simply evacuate.

NOTE: You should only use portable fire extinguishers if your employer has provided the proper training. Also, use them once you sound an alarm, summoned the fire department, and activated the fixed fire suppression system.

Heat Hazards


Young workers are exposed to heat hazards in the kitchen. Temperatures can reach 105 to 110 degrees while cooking in front of hot grills. Exposure to excessive heat could lead to several problems, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and possible death.

Heat exhaustion: At high temperatures, the body sends large amounts of blood to the skin in an effort to eliminate heat through perspiration. As a result, less blood is distributed to the body's vital organs, including the brain.

Heat exhaustion can lead to the following health issues:

  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • nausea
  • eventual collapse

Also, if not treated promptly by lowering the person's body temperature, a person suffering from heat exhaustion could suffer brain damage.

Heat Stroke: During heat stroke, the body stops sweating, making it impossible to dispurse heat. The body temperature may rise to a dangerously high level in a short time and cause death.

Possible Solutions

There are several things you can do to decrease the chance of heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Wear comfortable, breathable, and cool clothing.
  • Tell your co-workers if you are not feeling well.
  • Recognize and be able to treat the early symptoms of heat illness.
  • Take regular breaks from the hot environment to let your body cool down.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Safe Work Practices

Your employer can implement the following safe work practices:

  • Keep cooking areas as cool as possible, such as:
    • spot cooling fans
    • evaporative cooling
    • air conditioning
    • general ventilation
    • local exhaust ventilation
  • Encourage workers to drink plenty of water.
  • Gradually introduce employees to hot environments. This allows the body to build up a tolerance to high temperatures. This process usually takes about two weeks.


Slips, trips, and falls can happen in the cooking area from cluttered, slippery floors with oil, water, or food on them. They are particularly hazardous in this area because young workers can fall into or onto hot surfaces or liquids.

Possible Solutions

There are many things you can do to reduce the chance of slips, trips, and falls in the kitchen. Here are a few ideas:

  • Wear non-slip waterproof footgear to decrease slip hazards.
  • Clean up spills immediately to avoid falls.
  • Eliminate cluttered work areas.
  • Do not run in the cooking area.
  • Do not store cooking oil on the floor. Someone may slip and fall into it.

Safe Work Practices

Employers should consider implementing the following safe work practices:

  • Use non-slip matting on floor surfaces.
  • If mats are not suitable to use on floors where grease is present, use no-skid waxes and surfaces coated with grit to create non-slip surfaces.

Electrical Hazards

There are many electrical hazards in commercial restaurant kitchens because of the variety of electrical appliances in use. Young workers may be exposed to electrocution, shock, or death from unsafe work practices, faulty electrical equipment or wiring, or use of damaged receptacles and connectors.

Possible Solutions

Workers should know the following to stay safe from electrical hazards:

  • emergency procedures and policies for their workplace
  • how to shut off the current
  • how to perform CPR
  • to pull the plug, not the cord, when unplugging equipment
  • not to touch a worker being shocked until the power has been turned off
  • not to use faulty equipment or damaged receptacles and connectors
  • to report unsafe equipment and work practices to your employer immediately

Safe Work Practices

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends the following safe work practices:

  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in situations where electricity and wetness coexist. GFCIs will interrupt the electrical circuit before a current sufficient to cause death or serious injury has passed through a body.
  • Exposed receptacle boxes must be made of nonconductive material so contact with the box will not constitute a "ground."
  • Plugs and receptacles must be designed to prevent energization until insertion is complete.


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. Which are the following is/are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

2. When using a deep fryer, which of the following is a way to prevent serious burns from hot oil?

3. Uncover a container of steaming materials by lifting the lid _____ your face.

4. If you catch fire while cooking in a restaurant, what is the first thing you should do?

5. When unplugging electrical equipment, pull the _____ and not the _____.

Have a great day!

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