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July 22, 2009: Air Curtain Beta Test Reduces Drive-Thru Window Fume Hazard

July 22, 2009
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STRUTHERS, Ohio - A beta test of an air curtain specially designed for restaurant drive-thru windows has shown that it can protect workers from extreme temperature exposures and continual vehicle emissions inhalation, the latter of which is a growing concern at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Headache, fatigue, flu-like effects, heart problems, and other symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning are a concern at all quick serve restaurants (QSR), according to OSHA. The escalating trend of drive-thru transactions, which the National Restaurant Association (NRA) lists as more than half of QSR industry business today (among QSR’s with drive-thru windows), is exacerbating the potential hazard. Combined with the continual uncomfortable environmental temperature differentials, it is believed that vehicle emissions inhalation could possibly be a contributor to the restaurant industry’s unusually high average of 145-percent employee turnover.

The six-month-long beta test at Arby’s store #5775, Struthers, Ohio, by Berner International, New Castle, Pa., posed the manufacturer’s new Drive-Thru Unit (DTU) air curtain against external environmental conditions at a drive-thru window station. Specially-designed with the proper air velocity, volume, and uniformity necessary for drive-thru window opening dimensions, the 18-inch-long DTU strategically discharges air from top to bottom of the drive-thru window to maintain a separation of indoor/outdoor environments a few inches outside the threshold. The air discharge is strong enough to stop infiltrating outdoor air, vehicle emissions, and insects, but doesn’t blow money out of hands penetrating the airstream.

“Fumes infiltrating the restaurant were all but eliminated and drive-thru employees were able to wear normal indoor uniforms instead of heavy coats and gloves during wintertime operations,” stated Vicki Vitullo, general manager of the beta test Arby’s store, one of nine Arby’s franchises owned by Niles Restaurant Business, Youngstown, Ohio. “If for some reason we forget to switch the air curtain on, fumes and cold weather are definitely noticeable.”

On its Website’s “Teen Worker Safety in Restaurants” page at www.osha.gov, OSHA outlines several solutions for employers wanting to eliminate this potential hazard:

1. Use a reverse-flow fan system (air curtain) to prevent exhaust from entering the interior drive-thru window area; or

2. Provide adequate space and ventilation for both exterior and interior drive-thru areas; or

3. Rotate workers to minimize time spent stationed in the drive-thru area.

For more information on Berner and its Drive-Thru Unit air curtain, visit www.berner.com.

Publication date: 07/20/2009

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