Cooking Up a Recipe for Teen Safety in Restaurants

A program in Washington state provides guidance to restaurant\r\nmanagers and supervisors on how to prevent injuries to teen\r\nworkers.

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Take a bunch of teenagers, mix them up with fast-paced work, slippery floors, and stoves and ovens, add a dash of knives and box cutters, and what do you get? A recipe for a lot of injuries, in some cases.

Almost all of us have been there and done that: worked in a restaurant in some capacity. With 20/20 hindsight, many of us now realize that safety measures and training for the youngest workers in some of those establishments left a lot to be desired. The state of Washington wants to do something about that.

Washington''s Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) and the Washington Restaurant Association (WRA) will conduct workshops in King County in May, June and July to provide guidance to restaurant managers and supervisors on how to prevent injuries to teen workers.

"With aggressive support from employers and the Washington Restaurant Association, we''re convinced we can continue to see a significant reduction in teen injuries," L&I Director Gary Moore insists. "Making our workplaces safer should be a comforting goal for teens, parents, employers and schools."

The free, three-hour, "Supervising for Safety" workshops will be at L&I''s Tukwila office, 12806 Gateway Drive. The workshop schedule:

  • May 23 - 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.
  • June 19 - 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.
  • July 24 - 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

The King County workshops are part of new training being conducted throughout the state in a joint L&I/WRA program to prevent slips and falls, cuts, burns and sprains to teen workers in quick-service restaurants. Those injuries account for more than 85 percent of teen injuries in restaurants.

Participating restaurants will be asked to implement new safety procedures, send managers and supervisors to safety-training classes, conduct regular crew safety meetings and place "Rated R" stickers on equipment prohibited for use by teens.

The teen-safety program started in the restaurant industry because it employs up to 50 percent of teenage workers. "Many young people get their first job in our industry and go on to have wonderful careers in food service," comments Gene Vosberg, WRA president. "We want that first experience to be positive and injury-free, and this program provides a significant new way to reach that goal."

Using workers'' compensation claims data to identify a workplace safety issue and address the problem in partnership with private industry is a new trend for L&I. Such partnerships are a win-win situation, Moore says.

"In this case, workers will benefit from reduced injuries," he says. "For employers, not only do they have the potential of reducing workers'' compensation costs as reportable injuries decrease, but they benefit from the goodwill of employees and customers who appreciate an emphasis on safety."

To register for workshops, call L&I at (360) 902-6041 or WRA at (800) 225-7166, ext. 134. Space is limited.

Visit the L&I Web site for more information about the program at www.LNI.wa.gov/scs/workstandards/teensafety.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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