Employers are required by federal law to provide their employees with a workplace free from known hazards. The law is enforced by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which also makes safety regulations that apply to all employers. Although OSHA does not set restaurant-specific safety regulations, many OSHA regulations cover the type of work environment and activities found in restaurants.

Machine Guarding of Kitchen Equipment

OSHA regulations require machine guarding that protects the machine's operator and other nearby employees. For restaurants, this regulation would apply to the food preparation areas where commercial machines are used for slicing, chopping, mixing or grinding food. Machine guarding can include the use of barriers to prevent an employee from coming into contact with moving parts, such as rotating blades. The employer should also ensure that employees are adequately trained to use machines required for their job duties.

Personal Protection Equipment

Restaurant owners must provide appropriate protective equipment for employees. For example, kitchen workers involved in food preparation might be exposed to cutting and laceration hazards using knives and handling sharp blades. In certain circumstances, it might be necessary for the employer to provide steel mesh or Kevlar gloves as hand protection to comply with OSHA regulations.

Preparing for Hazards

OSHA regulations recognize the potential for certain workplace hazards, such as excessive heat, and requires employers to adequately prepare to address potential hazards. For restaurants, a hot kitchen environment can pose a potential heat hazard by causing health problems such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Although OSHA regulations do not set standards on what constitutes a hot working environment, employers are still required to protect employees from heat-related hazards. OSHA does provide a heat index that indicates what level of protective measures must be taken when a working environment reaches heat ranges between 91 degrees up to 115 degrees or higher.

Youth Worker Restrictions

OSHA regulations apply to all workers regardless of age, but OSHA is particularly concerned with youth worker safety in the restaurant industry because nearly 30 percent of restaurant workers are 20 years old or younger. OSHA emphasizes that safety training is essential for youth restaurant workers because for many youth workers it is their first job. OSHA also emphasizes that youth restaurant workers under the age of 18 are restricted from engaging in certain activities regardless of safety measures taken by the employer. Child labor laws prohibit employees under the age of 18 from working, setting up, adjusting or cleaning any power-driven restaurant equipment, such as slicers or mixers.