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January 16, 2002

Program aims to reduce injuries to teens working in fast-food restaurants; Yakima first in line for safety workshop

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and the Washington Restaurant Association (WRA) are launching a joint program to reduce injuries to teen workers in fast-food restaurants throughout the state.

It will begin in the Yakima area, with a Jan. 23 safety-training workshop for restaurant managers and supervisors.

The statewide program will focus on preventing slips, falls, cuts, burns and sprains, which account for more than 85 percent of teen injuries in restaurants. Participating quick-service restaurants will be asked to implement new safety procedures, send managers and supervisors to safety-training classes, conduct regular crew safety meetings and place stickers on equipment prohibited for use by teens.

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

The teen-safety initiative was begun in the restaurant industry because it employs 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," said 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 then addressing the problem in collaboration with private industry is a growing new direction for L&I.

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

L&I and the WRA began developing a joint program last year that included a three-month teen-safety pilot project in Thurston County. Results of the program involving about two dozen restaurants were encouraging enough to expand the program statewide.

Employers wanting more information about the Yakima workshop or the overall program should call L&I's Mary Miller at 360-902-6041.

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