Course 613 - Young Worker Safety in Restaurants

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

Food Preparation Safety

The food preparation area of a restaurant gives young workers a chance to develop skills in culinary art, sanitation principles, and in the use of kitchen equipment. However, they may also be exposed to the following hazards:

  • machine guarding
  • knives and cuts
  • kitchen equipment
  • strains and sprains

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

machine guarding

Machine Guarding

When moving parts have the potential for causing severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, machine guarding eliminates or controls these hazards. It also provides essential and required protection for the worker.

Young workers often help prepare foods for restaurants and are exposed to power-driven equipment such as commercial dough mixers, choppers, and slicers that may be hazardous if machine guarding is not in place.

Workers can be caught in the rotating blades of the mixer, resulting in strangulations, broken bones, and amputations. Cuts and amputation injuries can also occur when using or cleaning slicers and dicers.

Possible Solutions

Besides machine guarding, there are many other things you can do to protect yourself from power-driven equipment in restaurants:

Apron is caught in the mixer with no guarding.
  • Turn off and unplug machinery before cleaning or removing a blockage.
  • Get properly trained before using any equipment.
  • Ask for machinery to be securely fixed or bolted to benches or tabletops.
  • Do not put your hands into the machinery to manipulate food. Use pushers or tongs to move food in machinery.
  • Wear proper work clothing. Avoid loose-fitting clothing or jewelry that could catch in the machinery.

Safe Work Practices

Remember to follow the child labor laws that do not allow workers younger than 18 to operate, set up, adjust, clean, oil, or repair power-driven equipment, such as meat slicers or bakery mixers.

Make sure your employer labels equipment young workers are not allowed to operate. The DOL Youth Rules! website has downloadable stickers available to place on the hazardous machinery. The stickers alert all workers no one under 18 years of age may operate the equipment.

Knives and Cuts

Young workers often help prepare foods for restaurants and are exposed to cuts while using sharp kitchen tools such as knives or cleavers.

Other sharp surfaces and equipment may also provide a cutting hazard for workers.

Possible Solutions

Here are some tips to help prevent cuts while using knives in a restaurant:

  • Handle, use, and store knives and other sharp utensils safely.
  • Cut in the direction away from the body.
  • Keep your fingers and thumbs out of the way of the cutting line.
  • Use any protective clothing provided by your employer, such as steel mesh or Kevlar gloves.
  • Store knives, saws, and cleavers in a specific location when they are not in use.
  • Do not talk to co-workers while using a knife. When interrupted, stop cutting and place the knife down on a secure surface.
  • Avoid placing knives near the edge of a countertop.
dangerous cutting
Dangerous cutting position
proper cutting
Cut away from the body keeping thumb out of the cutting line.

Knives and Cuts: Safe Work Practices

Employers should consider implementing the following safe work practices to keep employees safe:

  • Let only experienced and trained workers sharpen knives. When sharpening knives, keep the thumb beneath the knuckle guard rim protection on the sharpener handle. If you keep it on the top of the rim, you may get cut.
  • Keep knives sharpened and in good condition. Dull knives may slip and cause injuries.
  • Protect workers who use shake mixer blades. Don’t forget to remind employees to hold the top of the container onto the shake up while mixing. This will avoid exposure to the blades.
safe sharpening
Safer way to sharpen knives
unsafe sharpening
Unsafe way to sharpen knives

Kitchen Equipment

Young employees can be exposed to potentially dangerous machinery in the kitchen, such as:

  • slicers
  • dicers
  • choppers
  • mincers
  • microwaves
  • mixers

Before operating any types of kitchen equipment, you should do the following to protect yourself:

  • Get trained on how to use the equipment.
  • Wear any personal protective equipment provided by your employer.
  • Use machine guarding.
  • Ask for help if you are unsure how a piece of equipment works.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for machine usage and cleaning.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the common machines used in the kitchen.

Mincers, Chopper, Dicers, and Slicers

meat slicer
Meat slicer

If not careful, these machines can cause serious injuries. Here are some ways to protect yourself:

  • Always use push sticks to feed or remove food from these machines. Never use your hands.
  • Do not open up or put your hands into a machine while it is operating to stir or guide food.
  • Turn off AND unplug the machine before disassembling and cleaning.

Food Processors and Mixers

Food processors and mixers can also cause injuries if you are not careful. Here are some ways to protect yourself:

  • Do not try and remove items from the dough while the machine is running.
  • Be sure the processor is in the off position before lifting the lid to stir the contents or add items.
  • Remember to turn off and unplug the machine BEFORE cleaning or removing a blockage.
  • Do not wear loose jewelry that could get caught in the machine.


There are several things to remember about microwaves and your safety. Here are just a few:

  • Make sure the microwave is at waist-level and within easy reach.
  • Cover foods cooked in microwaves to avoid splattering.
  • Open containers away from your face. They may be under pressure and extremely hot.
  • Do not use a microwave if the doors are damaged or don't lock. NOTE: Damaged microwave ovens can emit harmful radiation.
  • If there is any sparking inside the microwave, turn it off immediately and report to your supervisor.

Strains and Sprains

Ergonomic injuries are fairly common in restaurants due to prolonged standing, reaching and lifting, and repetitive motions. Ergonomic controls can certainly help eliminate or limit exposure to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the restaurant setting. These repetitive movements can lead to strains and sprains.

Prolonged Standing: Repetitive or prolonged motions, such as reaching, lifting, and chopping while preparing food in food preparation areas can cause injuries. Static postures may happen as workers continually stand in one position while preparing food. This can cause muscle fatigue and pooling of blood in the lower extremities.

elevated reach
Kitchen worker using elevated reach.

Reaching and Lifting: Repetitive extended reaches for supplies can lead to back and shoulder injuries. Here are a couple common muscle injuries due to reaching and lifting:

  • Tendinitis: Tendon inflammation occurs when a muscle or tendon is repeatedly tense from overuse.
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries: This is the most common shoulder tendon disorder. It happens when the tendons of the rotator cuff of the shoulder are inflamed. It can be caused by continuously working with the arms raised overhead or other repetitive movements of the arm.

Repetitive Motions: Performing hand-intensive tasks, such as chopping, stirring and scooping, with a bent wrist can cause considerable stress on the wrist. Repetitive motions can lead to irritation and swelling and potential MSDs, such as:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: This occurs when the median nerve becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve is the main nerve that extends down the arm to the hand and provides the sense of touch in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the fourth, or ring, finger.
  • Tendinitis: Tendon inflammation that occurs when a muscle or tendon is repeatedly tensed from overuse or unaccustomed use.
  • buddy
    Lift with a buddy to prevent injuries.
  • Tenosynovitis: Inflammation or injury to the synovial sheath surrounding the tendon. It usually results from excessive repetitive motion.

Safe Work Practices

Workers need to learn to lift properly and stay fit to help reduce the risk of injuries from lifting. Here are some other techniques to help prevent injuries:

  • Lift with your knees, not your back.
  • Lighten a heavy load that needs to be lifted.
  • Always make sure the load is balanced and even when lifting.
  • Get help with lifting or pouring fluid out of heavy pots.


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. Workers younger than _____ cannot operate, set up, adjust, clean or repair power-driven equipment in a restaurant.

2. You should always cut _____ the body, keeping the thumb out of the cutting line.

3. What should you do if you see sparking in the restaurant microwave?

4. This occurs when a muscle or tendon is repeatedly tensed or overused.

5. This occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff and the shoulder are inflamed.

Have a great day!

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