What Teens Should Know About Fast Food Restaurant Safety Hazards

What Teens Should Know About Fast Food Restaurant Safety Hazards

by / Friday, 17 September 2021 / Published in Workplace Woes
Teen worker handing tray of food to elderly man

For many people, their first foray into the working world is a part-time job at a local fast food restaurant. And with many restaurants dealing with labor shortages because of the COVID pandemic and offering extra incentives to attract new employees, part-time fast food jobs may be very enticing to teens looking to earn some extra money. But in addition to the general risks involved with the coronavirus pandemic, working in fast food restaurants (and in restaurants in general) involves a lot of safety hazards to employees. 

Common Fast Food Restaurant Hazards & Injuries

Even though teens aren’t typically working full time, that doesn’t make them less prone to getting injured on the job. Teen workers are actually more likely than adult workers to be injured at work, with NIOSH estimating about 200,000 workers under the age of 18 being injured at work each year. Out of all those injuries, about 70,000 are serious enough to require emergency treatment. 

In fast food restaurants, some common safety hazards to employees include:

  • Burns caused by working near/with hot grills and fryers
  • Cuts caused by sharp tools like knives and slicers
  • Slip and falls in kitchens, particularly in dishwashing areas
  • Dangers associated with chemicals, like harsh cleaning products
  • Muscle strain caused by lifting heavy items

Your Rights as a Teen Employee

Since teens are just entering the workforce, they often aren’t aware of what their rights are when it comes to safety in the workplace. Sometimes, they’ll see a dangerous issue in their workplace, but either don’t feel confident about speaking up about it out of fear of losing their job or simply don’t know what to do. And, unfortunately, some employers are willing to take advantage of the fact that teen employees might not speak up.

Restaurants are one type of business that will always have several safety issues inherent to it. However, even if it’s impossible to completely eliminate those safety hazards, employers still have a responsibility to provide a work environment that isn’t more dangerous than it needs to be. This means doing things like training new employees to make sure they know how to work safely, providing protective safety gear, and making sure equipment is well maintained and repaired. For example, there have been cases of teens getting seriously cut at work because they were asked to use slicing machines or to do chopping that they hadn’t been trained on. 

It’s very important for teens to know that they have a right to refuse to work if they feel unsafe. According to OSHA, you can refuse work if all of the following criteria are met:

  • If possible, you have asked the employer to eliminate the danger and they have failed to do so
  • You are refusing to work in “good faith,” meaning you sincerely believe there is an imminent danger
  • A reasonable person would agree that a situation poses a real risk of injury or death
  • The hazard is urgent enough that there isn’t time to have the issue corrected through official means, such as by requesting an OSHA inspection

If you are in a situation where you need to refuse work due to safety issues, take the following three steps:

  • Ask your employer to correct the problem or assign other work
  • Tell your employer that you will not do the work until the hazard is corrected
  • Stay in the workplace until your employer tells you to leave

Get Help from a Michigan Workplace Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been injured on the job, it’s very important to contact a workplace injury lawyer as soon as possible. Even teenagers are eligible for workers compensation benefits and a lawyer will be able to help make sure you receive all of the compensation you need while you recover. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you’ll be able to talk to a lawyer who is experienced in handling workers compensation claims and workplace injury cases. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Image: Shutterstock