More than one in four adults found their first job in the restaurant industry.
That’s what I learned from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, creator of the Xtreme Safety fact sheet. It describes how to identify potential hazards and find solutions to them.
“Many teens’ first work experience is in the restaurant industry,” it reads. “Nearly 30 percent or approximately 125,000 of Michigan restaurant industry employees are under 20 years of age.”
I’ve known many people who started their working life in a restaurant, where they faced the risks of slippery floors, sharp knives, cleaning chemicals, and using unique tools used for making food – like deep fryers.
Working with hot substances or objects results in about 350 WorkSafeBC claims among young workers each year in BC – making it one of the Top 7 Dangers to young workers.
“Typically these injuries involve hot fats and oils or hot water, and may also involve steam, other food products or even pots, pans, and trays,” reads the report from WorkSafeBC.
“Resulting burns range in severity with one in 40 claims being a third-degree burn. These serious injuries have a long-term, profound impact to the worker, usually requiring hospitalization and cosmetic surgery.”
The other six top dangers are lifting objects, working on elevated levels, working with knives, using mobile equipment or motor vehicles, working with food slicers, and working in proximity to running equipment or machinery.
A friend of mine – let’s call her Jane – described a near-miss incident with a deep fryer when she was 15, working in a fast food outlet, left to close on her own, without proper supervision. She was eager to get home, rushing, and in one hand she held a basket of fried chicken that was left over. With her one free hand, she grabbed the fat vat of the deep fryer and lifted it before realizing it was too heavy. It had been cooled, as required, so she wasn’t at risk of being burned but she didn’t want to deal with the huge mess it would leave on the floor, especially since she was alone on closing shift.
She held on for dear life, hearing a crack in her wrist before setting down the load. She saved the floor but ended up with a soft-tissue injury that caused her to miss work and require physiotherapy.
I wrote about another fat fryer near-miss in Deep-fryer disaster in the making. It describes a young worker who – lacking proper training – tried to re-fill a fat fryer with a huge piece of solid lard too big to melt in one piece.
“The piece of lard got stuck at the top and it started to smoke at the sides. We really had to hack at it to make sure it didn’t go all over the place,” said the former young worker (who no longer works in this industry).
Thankfully the workers I spoke with weren’t seriously injured, but even today – with improved safety standards in place – too many are. For more info on keeping your young workers safe, check out WorkSafeBC’s information on Kitchen equipment and Food & beverage services.