Health and Safety ReportVolume 14, Issue 7

On Topic

Upsize Your Drive-thru Health and Safety print this article

Like many new and young workers, working in a restaurant will be Kannan’s first job. According to Restaurants Canada, the first job for 22% of all Canadians is in the food service industry. Canada’s restaurants employ over 500,000 people under the age of 25, which represents about one in five youth jobs. Restaurants provide more first jobs than any other industry and directly employ more than 1.2 million people, or 6.9% of the Canada's workforce - making it the country's fourth-largest employer.  New and young workers are often inexperienced, which may put them at higher risk for work injuries.

The types of work found in food services include: serving, cleaning, cooking, food preparation, and delivery. Many young workers will find themselves working in the drive-thru area of a fast food restaurant. Working in the drive-thru area requires direct interaction with customers, while learning food service and money handling skills. This fast-paced position potentially exposes workers to a number of conditions such as noise, repetitive motion, workplace violence, prolonged standing, and exposure to car exhaust that could permanently affect their health and well-being.  Each of these issues should be fully evaluated when developing a comprehensive health and safety program.  This article provides a few important tips to get you started in the right direction.


Excessive exposure to noise can cause permanent hearing impairment and loss of hearing.   Drive-thru workers can encounter noise from a variety of sources, for example, from wearing a headset to receive customer orders. Use of a headset may expose employees to loud background noise, static, and fluctuating volumes.

To prevent unnecessary exposure to noise, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers implement safe work practices, such as:

  • Provide good quality headsets with acoustical limiting devices that will offer hearing protection by keeping headset volume at a safe and comfortable level.
  • Use good quality microphones to improve reception capabilities and reduce the amount of noise coming through the headset.
  • Ensure the headset fits the worker properly. Adjustable headsets work best.
  • Reduce individual employee exposure time to headset and vehicle engine noise by rotating workers through the drive-thru area.

As a drive-thru worker, you can:

  • ensure your headset fits properly,
  • ensure your headset volume isn’t set too loud, and
  • see a doctor if you experience ringing in your ears or hearing problems.

Repetitive Motion

Drive-thru employees can develop strains and sprains when performing tasks that require repetitive motions. These tasks include excessive reaching, lifting, and leaning out of drive-thru windows to hand customers their orders. To reduce the likelihood of experiencing strains and sprains on the job, workers should:

  • avoid twisting while lifting,
  • avoid overreaching,
  • walk food out to customers if they are parked too far away for you to safely reach from the drive-thru window, and
  • keep physically fit to help avoid injuries.

Employers should:

  • arrange workstations to provide for easy access to items used most frequently, and to enable employees to keep their elbows close to the body,
  • design drive-thru windows to alleviate employee reaching, and
  • rotate workers through the drive-thru area to limit their exposure to excessive reaching and lifting.

Prolonged Standing

Prolonged periods of standing while working the drive-thru window can cause stress and strain to workers' backs and legs. As a drive-thru worker, you should wear shoes with well-cushioned insteps and soles, and avoid long periods of standing still by continually altering your position. Use a foot rest bar or a low stool to help alter your posture by raising one foot and then the other.

Employers can help by providing equipment such as:

  • stools or a foot rest bar at work stations so employees are able to shift their weight from their feet while safely maintaining their reach, and
  • anti-fatigue mats which will help contract and expand the muscles of the person standing on them, increasing blood flow and reducing fatigue.

Car Exhaust

Working at a drive-thru window can also expose an employee to automobile exhaust. This exhaust contains harmful pollutants, primarily carbon monoxide. Inhaling high concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to harmful effects such as headache, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, and potential heart problems (e.g., irregular heartbeat).

Workers should keep the drive-thru window closed as much as possible to limit exposure to automobile exhaust. Employers should provide adequate space and ventilation for both exterior and interior drive-thru areas. A reverse-flow fan system will prevent exhaust from entering the interior drive-thru window area and rotating workers can minimize time spent stationed in the drive-thru area.

Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is any act in which a person is abused, threatened, intimidated or assaulted in his or her employment.

Restaurants can be a target for workplace violence because of the presence of cash, the late work hours, and contact with the public. In some restaurants, the drive-thru is located in a room removed from the main restaurant, isolating the employee from the support of fellow workers.

Employers can implement safe work practices such as:

  • increasing workplace security by installing video surveillance, alarm systems, and door detectors,
  • ensuring that areas such as parking lots and around trash dumpsters are well-lit,
  • locating drive-thru windows within the same building as the restaurant and in close proximity to where other employees are working,
  • providing drop boxes for delivery food to customers, and
  • not leaving young workers alone at night to lock up.

As applicable to their jobs, employees should be trained on workplace violence prevention work practices and procedures including for handling cash, robbery prevention, working late, and working with the public.

Like many restaurant workers, if you are a new or young worker, be sure to ask questions if you are uncertain of something or have a “bad feeling” about how to do a task. Understand your rights and your responsibilities regarding health and safety and know that it is okay to ask questions. The more you learn about workplace health and safety and the more you understand about the hazards and how to do your job safely, the more you will be able to participate in the prevention of injuries or illnesses to yourself and your co-workers. 



Tips and Tools

Welding Gases and Fumes: No Idle Threatprint this article

Welding gases and fumes pose a serious threat to anyone who inhales them. Learn how to help determine effective risk controls for reducing the risk posed by welding gases and fumes.

Welding fumes are a complex mixture of metallic oxides, silicates and fluorides. Fumes are formed when a metal is heated above its boiling point and its vapours condense into very fine particles (solid particulates). Welders are at the highest risk for exposure to welding gases and fumes, but anyone who works near a welder can also inhale these gases and fumes. This exposure is especially true indoors or in confined spaces where fumes can’t dissipate and hazardous levels can build up.

Welding fumes are made of many different metallic components and each fume will be different depending on the material being welded, the electrode being used, and the type of welding. The airborne gases and fumes produced or present during welding can include:

  • Nitrous oxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Argon
  • Helium
  • Ozone
  • Metal fumes such as manganese and chromium

The health effects of short-term exposure to these gases and fumes can include eye, nose, and throat irritation, dizziness and nausea while the effects of long term exposure include occupational asthma, pneumonia, reduced long function, stomach ulcers, kidney damage, nervous system damage and cancer of the lungs, larynx and urinary tract.

How to reduce the risks

Eliminating the source of exposure is the best way to reduce the risk of exposure to welding gases and fumes. If that’s not possible, there are other risk controls to use. WorkSafeBC suggests the following controls, listed in order of effectiveness.

  1. Elimination and substitution

Eliminating the hazard by substituting a safer process or material is the most effective control.

  • Can alternative, less hazardous materials (like manganese-free welding rods) be used?
  • Can a process that generates fewer gases or fumes be used, such as cold joining?
  • Can improved designs reduce the amount of welding required?


  1. Engineering Controls

Modifying facilities, equipment, and processes can reduce exposure.

  • Can general ventilation be improved?
  • Can fans be set up to move the smoke away from the welder and other workers?
  • Can local exhaust ventilation be used to remove contaminated air?
  • Can turntables be used so welders can sit and position the material so gases and fumes don’t cross their face?


  1. Administrative Controls

Modifying work practices and policies, and using awareness tools and training can limit the risk of exposure to welding gases and fumes.

  • Has a plan been developed to control exposure?
  • Can warning signs be posted in the work area?
  • Can workers be scheduled to work away from areas being used for large welding jobs?
  • Can change areas provide separate stations for work and street clothes?
  • Can a hygiene awareness program be implemented?


  1. Personal Protective Equipment

This is the least preferred type of control and must be used in addition to at least one other control.

  • Do workers have appropriate respirators, eyewear, and protective clothing?
  • Have workers been fit-tested to ensure respirators are working effectively?
  • Has personal protective equipment been verified to ensure it is working properly?



Partner News

WHMIS 2015: Preparing for Changeprint this article

What WHMIS 2015 Means for Those Who Handle Hazardous Products in Canada

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a national system that provides comprehensive information on the hazards, safe use and handling of hazardous products used in Canadian workplaces. Workers have a right to know about the hazards that may come with the products they handle, use and store. WHMIS helps ensure that adequate information is provided by suppliers to their customers, and by employers to their workers.

WHMIS came into force in 1988 and was updated in February 2015 to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). This modification to WHMIS ensures that Canada’s hazard classification and communication is aligned with U.S. regulatory requirements and is consistent with international best practice as laid out in the GHS. As a result of this modification it is now possible for suppliers (manufacturers, importers and distributors) under WHMIS 2015 to meet all Canadian and U.S. requirements using one label and safety data sheet (SDS).

“Those principles of the system remain the same as they were in 1988,” says Rosslynn Miller-Lee, who manages the Assessment, Compliance & Enforcement Division of Health Canada. “What’s changed in terms of the adoption of the GHS in Canada are the criteria that we apply for the classification and the specifics of the communication.”

For example, while warning pictograms under WHMIS were black and white with a round black border, under GHS, such pictograms are contained in a red square. In many cases the pictograms are highly similar, so the labelling should remain familiar to anyone using the product. “If they’re working with the same chemical that they’ve worked with for the past 10 years, the hazards of that chemical haven’t changed,” Miller-Lee says.

The main elements of WHMIS 1988 - product hazard classification, labels, safety data sheets and worker education and training - are all still required with WHMIS 2015. Suppliers are still obligated to:

  • Communicate the hazard through SDS and labels;
  • Update labels and SDS when new data becomes available; and
  • Disclose any information required to appear on an SDS to a safety or health professional, in an emergency.

What has changed for suppliers are the obligations to prepare and maintain documentation, the names and criteria for the hazard classes, how labels look and what is required on the safety data sheets. In less than a year (June 2017) manufacturers and importers must fully comply with WHMIS 2015 requirements. Distributors have until June 1, 2018.

To assist suppliers with the transition, Health Canada has published Phase 1 of their Supplier Technical Guidance. Request your PDF copy here. 


Podcast: Sun Safety at Work with Thomas Tenkateprint this article

This month’s Health and Safety To Go! features a new interview with Dr. Thomas Tenkate from the Sun Safety at Work project and an encore of the podcast Challenges of an Aging Workforce.


Feature Podcast: Sun Safety at Work with Thomas Tenkate

Dr. Thomas Tenkate, Associate Professor and Director at the School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University in Toronto discusses the importance of sun safety in the workplace, developing a sun safety program, and his current project, Sun Safety at Work Canada, with CCOHS.


The podcast runs 7:11 minutes. 

Listen to the podcast now.


Encore Podcast: Challenges of an Aging Workforce

CCOHS examines the challenges of aging workers and what employers can do to accommodate the needs of all workers.


The podcast runs 3:21 minutes. 

Listen to the podcast now.


CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!


See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode

Last Word.

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