Health and safety guidelines for restaurants

By Rhys Martin May 16, 2024

When it comes to health and safety in the kitchen, preparation and processes are key. Learn all about the key safety standards tailored to the unique challenges of fast-paced restaurants.

Plus, gain insight into when to report injuries and incidents, penalties for non-compliance, and how digital restaurant safety checklists help keep everyone accountable.

Restaurant worker safety regulations

In the United States, workplace safety is overseen by federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSHA is crucial in enforcing safety standards that aim to protect employees from workplace hazards.

While it covers standards for multiple industries, understanding the restaurant-specific OSHA regulations is vital to ensure restaurant worker safety.

1. Hazard communication

OSHA standards require restaurants to have a hazard communication program in place. This involves identifying and communicating the dangers associated with chemicals used in the kitchen, such as cleaning agents and cooking oils.

Create a hazard communication program for your team highlighting potential threats and conduct employee training on health and safety in the kitchen. A centralized digital training platform can help keep team members informed and educated with up-to-date information.

2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

It is a requirement for restaurants to provide appropriate PPE, such as gloves, aprons, and eye protection, to employees exposed to workplace hazards. All employees must be equipped with the necessary PPE and trained on its proper use and maintenance. Inspect and replace damaged or worn-out PPE regularly – once or twice a week should do it – to prevent potential injuries.

3. Emergency action plans

You must develop and implement emergency action plans to address potential workplace emergencies, such as fires, natural disasters, and medical emergencies. Create detailed emergency action plans that outline:

    • evacuation procedures
    • emergency contact information, and
    • assigned roles and responsibilities for employees during emergencies.

    It also helps to conduct regular drills to practice emergency response protocols. A great tool for emergency action plans is a digital restaurant safety checklist, particularly if you have multiple venues.

    4. Fire safety

    Restaurants are required to have adequate fire prevention measures in place, including:

    • proper storage of flammable materials
    • maintenance of fire extinguishers, and
    • installation of smoke detectors and fire alarms.

    Inspect your fire safety equipment and systems monthly to ensure they are in good working condition. Train employees on fire prevention strategies, evacuation procedures, and the use of fire extinguishers.

    5. Electrical safety

    To prevent electrical hazards, such as electrocution and fires, restaurants must abide by industry electrical standards. These standards alter from region to region but generally, they’re concerned with the proper installation, maintenance, and use of electrical equipment and wiring.

    Schedule annual inspections of electrical systems and equipment by qualified professionals. Train employees on electrical safety practices, such as avoiding overloading outlets and using ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in areas where water is present.

    6. Slips, trips and fall prevention

    It is important to prevent slips, trips and falls within a restaurant, as these are the most common forms of workplace injury. Implement a daily cleaning procedure in your business to keep work areas clean and clutter-free. Use non-slip mats in areas prone to spills or moisture, and encourage your employees to wear slip-resistant shoes. Doing this will give you the best chance to improve health and safety in the kitchen.

    When do you need to report an injury to OHSA?

    In some severe cases, injuries need to be promptly reported to OSHA. This can be done by submitting the correct forms on the agency’s website. Here’s when you need to report an injury to OSHA:


    Any work-related fatality must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours of the employer learning about the incident. This includes any death that occurs within 30 days of a work-related incident.

    Inpatient Hospitalization

    Any work-related incident that results in the inpatient hospitalization of one or more employees must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of the employer learning about the incident. This includes hospitalizations for observation or treatment beyond first aid.


    Any work-related incident that results in the loss of an external body part, such as a fingertip or a limb, must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of the employer learning about the incident.

    Eye loss

    Any work-related incident that results in the loss of an eye must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of the employer learning about the incident.

    It’s important to note that these reporting requirements apply to all employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, regardless of the employer size or the industry.

    Certain states have specific reporting requirements that may differ from federal OSHA requirements. Familiarize yourself with both federal and state reporting requirements to ensure compliance. The OHSA website has all the information you need to remain up to date.

    What happens when you don’t report an incident to OHSA?

    Non-compliance with these health and safety guidelines for restaurants can lead to severe consequences, including fines, penalties, and legal liabilities. Fines for OSHA violations can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per violation, depending on the violation severity and the number of employees affected. In addition to financial penalties, non-compliance can:

    • damage a restaurant’s reputation for not valuing restaurant worker safety
    • increase insurance premiums, and
    • create potential lawsuits.

    How to stay informed of regulation updates

    While the industry is ever evolving, it’s important to remain on top of regulatory modifications. To stay informed about updates and changes, restaurant managers can:

    • Subscribe to newsletters and alerts from regulatory agencies such as OSHA.
    • Participate in industry conferences, workshops, and training sessions on restaurant worker safety.
    • Join industry associations and networks that provide updates on regulatory developments.
    • Consult with legal and compliance experts to ensure understanding and adherence to regulations.

    How Operandio can help you with restaurant compliance

    Maintaining training material and workplace safety checklists can be difficult with pen and paper – especially when you have multiple venues. That’s where Operandio comes in. Our digital checklists allow your staff to use a single source of truth regarding safety standards. Plus, you can easily update any forms, templates, or guides, and then distribute them instantly. Book your free demo today.