An Introduction to OSHA Regulations for Restaurants

As a restaurant owner or manager, there’s always a lot on your plate, no pun intended. From maintaining your kitchen to working with reviewers to managing your staff, there’s a lot to do. But part of your responsibilities as an owner or manager is to be aware of the laws that protect your employees. 

Whether you’re new to OSHA regulations, or you need a refresher, you’ll find the OSHA courses offered by Nutri-Rific to bring you up to speed on these vital regulations. That said, if you’re looking for a brief primer on OSHA regulations for restaurants, we’ve outlined some key points below.

What Does OSHA Do?

Simply put, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor that oversees the protection of private-sector employees and workers. OSHA was established when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was made law in 1970. This act was in response to a rising number of workplace injuries and deaths throughout the 1950s and 1960s. 

By instituting workplace safety standards, providing training opportunities, and offering education and assistance to both employers and employees, the number of workplace accidents have dropped significantly in the United States.

What OSHA Means for Your Restaurant

Before we get too far, it’s important to remember the basic steps that your business needs to take in order to maintain it’s compliance with the OSH Act.

  1. An official OSHA poster that outlines employee rights and employer responsibilities under the OSH Act should be posted in a visible and accessible space in your business.
  2. Workplace accidents should be recorded and reported promptly.
  3. Fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations, or dismemberments should be reported to OSHA within 8 hours of the incident.
  4. Employees and their representatives should be allowed to review their medical records.
  5. There is a no-retaliation policy for employees who contact OSHA with concerns or claims.

The Challenges in Your Workplace

There’s a litany of OSHA regulations that apply to a myriad of industries, including food service. Which standards apply to your restaurant really depends on which services you offer, the workers you employ, and the machinery or equipment you use and maintain in your restaurant. Just like any workplace, a restaurant is full of its share of hazards and challenges for your workers. It’s your responsibility to ensure that these hazards are mitigated to prevent any undue injuries or deaths. 


As an employer, you’re responsible for properly training your employees in a safe and effective way. That means that your training should be accessible and easy to understand. You should not expect your employees to perform duties or tasks that they haven’t been trained to do. 


Your workplace culture should empower employees to freely and honestly discuss safety and health concerns when they see them. After all, when your employees feel comfortable telling you about these issues, you can more quickly address them, eliminating any chance for harm and for making a report to OSHA.

Temperature Changes

The kitchen of a restaurant is a dynamic place, and that includes an ever-changing range of temperatures. From the blistering heat of a fryer to the frigid cold of a freezer, it’s important that your employees are trained to safely work and move in these areas. 

Equipment and Machinery

Any restaurant has its fair share of equipment and machinery. From meat slicers to friers to deep freezers, it’s important that all of your employees are trained to use these items appropriately. This also includes smaller equipment, like burners, knives, and other kitchen implements.

Ways to Overcome these Challenges

The fact is, you and your employees are working in an environment that’s always changing depending on a variety of conditions. You might not have a firm grasp of which challenges or hazards might appear during a given workday. That said, it shouldn’t prevent you from preparing for them and taking proactive measures to keep you and your workers safe.

Fortunately, any restaurant can take a few simple steps to immediately improve the safety of their workspaces and employees.

Follow Proper Food Handling Techniques

Your employees should all start their shift the same way by carefully and thoroughly washing their hands. Proper food handling techniques start with clean hands that are also cleaned throughout the day. Additionally, utensils should be cleaned with warm water and soap before their next use. Any surfaces on which food is stored or prepared should be cleaned and sanitized using cleaners that kill bacteria and viruses. Good food handling techniques keep your employees healthy and ensure that your customers enjoy a quality meal that doesn’t leave them feeling ill.

Follow Age Restriction Rules

The restaurant industry is a major employer of young Americans. As such, there are age-specific rules for your younger employees. For instance, the age of your employees determines what kind of work they can do and how many hours they can work. For instance, employees under 16 cannot bake, cook, handle knives, or operate machinery that could cause harm. The number of hours depends on their age and the time of year.

Keep Floors Clean and Dry 

No matter what kind of food you serve in your restaurant, your floors can become wet and slick throughout the day. This is due to the endless volume of liquids that are shuttled throughout the kitchen and dining area. Keeping your floors clean and dry is an easy way to also keep you, your employees, and your customers safe. For instance, sinks should have an uninterrupted way to drain. Rubber floor mats allow liquids to filter down to the floor while still offering your employees a durable surface to move on. These mats should be pulled up and cleaned, along with the floors underneath.

Practice Good Fire Safety

The nature of restaurant work means that the threat of fire is always a concern. Fire extinguishers should be placed strategically throughout not only your kitchen but the rest of your restaurant as well. Employees should be trained on how to use the extinguishers and should be expected to memorize where they are stored. Moreover, fire extinguishers should be tested regularly to ensure that they work properly. A maintenance log should be kept with each extinguisher. 

Additionally, flammable liquids and materials should be kept separate from cooking equipment, heat sources, and open flames.

Sign Up for Your Restaurant OSHA Courses Today

At Nutri-Rific, it’s our mission to empower and educate everyone in the restaurant industry to make smart choices about their work. Whether that’s food safety, responsibly serving alcohol, or simply addressing OSHA compliance issues, we’ve got courses designed with your needs in mind.
We offer three levels of OSHA courses for employees, management, and even instructors. Sign up for your course today