How Safe Are Your Teen Workers? (And What Happens If They’re Not)


Nearly 30% of employees in restaurants and other foodservice businesses are under the age of 20. The restaurant industry is a popular starting point for many young people to get their feet wet in the working world. While teens’ enthusiasm for their first jobs can be great for your restaurant, their inexperience can make teen worker safety a big concern.

According to, the injury rate for young workers under age 25 is approximately two times higher than for workers 25 years and old. If you’re thinking most of these injuries occur on the family farm, think again. Most teen injuries occur where you are… in the leisure and hospitality sector. As a restaurant owner or manager, you have a responsibility to ensure you’re providing a safe environment for all your restaurant employees. Giving extra attention to your young workers can also help you control worker’s compensation costs.

Teen Worker Safety Tips

The reason for teen injuries varies from the extreme (violent crimes and electrocution) to the obvious (slips and burns). Many teen accidents on the job can be minimized through extra compliance and safety training. With a lack in experience, and sometimes good judgement, teens need help and guidance to stay safe on the job. Here are some tips to help you reduce the risk of accidents for teens in your operation.

  • Visit the OSHA teen workers website. Review important data about teens in the restaurant industry, find teen and employer safety tips, and download free tools you can use to make your operation safer for your young workers.
  • Train and re-train. Teen workers often work seasonally. If you have employees returning after a break, don’t assume they remember safety guidelines. Train them again on all the basics, such as proper lifting, preparing and serving hot items, cleaning up ice and spills, and working with knives.
  • Do your part for teen worker safety. Simple tasks such as keeping knives sharpened and putting up “wet floor” signs in the work area can dramatically reduce injuries.
  • Design and implement a violence prevention program. Post signs, limit cash access, set procedures for reporting threats or violence and involve local police. Also, consider panic buttons, video surveillance, alarm systems, drop safes, door detectors and buddy closing systems.
  • Obey the laws. It sounds obvious, but some restaurant owners fail to follow basic laws from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including those that forbid workers under 16 from working after certain hours. Make sure you know your state laws as well.

Remember that teens are not just “little adults.” They’re learning and maturing as they go. When you keep them safe and well-trained, you may just be creating a loyal employee that sticks with you for years.

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