Many U.S. teens who work after school, on the weekends, and during summer break put in their time at fast-food chains and other restaurants. Unfortunately, the fast-paced environment, high employee turnover, and presence of stoves, ovens, hot oil, electrical outlets, and dangerous machinery make restaurant jobs, and particularly fast-food jobs, extremely dangerous for teens.
In fact, according to records from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whenever a U.S. teen is treated in an emergency room for a work-related injury, there is a 63 percent chance the injury occurred in some kind of fast-food establishment.
Burn injuries are the biggest hazard to fast-food and restaurant workers. In fact, adolescents working in the restaurant industry are at a six times greater risk of sustaining a work-related burn injury than their peers working in non-restaurant jobs.
A study of adolescent workers in the fast food industry conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that males and females had similar injury rates, but risks for injury by task and location differed by gender.
Adolescent male employees were more likely to suffer burns, lacerations, and other injuries while performing tasks associated with cooking, while adolescent female employees were more likely to suffer contusions, strains, sprains, and other injuries while completing tasks related to cashiering and servicing tables.
Moreover, nearly half of all burn injuries involved hot grease.
To help drive down the number of adolescents from being burned at their restaurant job, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed a list of dos and don’ts that young workers should read and keep in mind.
- Do wear long-sleeved cotton shirts and pants when cooking. A clean, dry, properly worn apron or uniform can protect you from burns and hot oil splashes.
- Do not cook without wearing protective clothing, even in hot temperatures or environments.
- 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, and steel mesh or Kevlar gloves when cutting.
- Learn to use equipment and personal protective equipment properly and safely. For example, if cooking with steamers and pasta boilers:
- Use tongs and oven mitts to remove hot items from steamers or pasta boilers.
- Place hot steamed items on trays to carry, rather than carrying steamed containers across the floor, leaving a trail of dripping hot water that may cause slips and falls.
- Open ovens or steamers by standing to the side, keeping the door between you and the open steamer.
- Open the top steamer first when steamers are stacked, and then the lower one to prevent being burned from the rising steam.
- Do not stand above steaming items or equipment. Steam can burn.
- Do not reach above an oven or steamer. Hot air and steam rises and you could be burned.
- Do not open cookers and steam ovens when they are under pressure.
- 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.
- Place sealed cooking pouches in boiling water carefully to avoid splashing.
- Assume that pots, pot handles, and utensils in pots are hot and use oven mitts when handling them. Use long gloves for deep ovens.
- Adjust burner flames to cover only the bottom of the pan. Avoid overcrowding on range tops.
- Wear sturdy footwear that is slip resistant and not canvas or open-toed to protect the feet in case hot liquids are spilled on shoes.
- Ask for help when moving or carrying a heavy pot of hot liquid off the burner.
- Do not allow pot handles or cooking utensils to stick out from counters or stove fronts. Keep pot handles away from burners.
- Avoid overfilling pots and pans.
- Do not clean vents over grill areas if the grill is hot. Clean vents the next morning before turning on for the day.
- Do not use metal containers, foil, or utensils in a microwave oven.
- Do not pour or spill water or ice into oil, especially hot oil. It will cause splattering.
- Do not leave hot oil or grease unattended.
- Do not use a wet cloth to lift lids from hot pots.
- Do not lean over pots of boiling liquid.