A recent beta test of an air curtain specially designed for restaurant drive-thru windows has proven to protect teenage workers from extreme temperature exposures and continual vehicle emissions inhalation, the latter which is a growing concern at the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA)—U.S. Department of Labor.

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 elevating the potential hazard. Combined with the continual uncomfortable environmental temperature differentials, vehicle emissions inhalation could possibly be a contributor to the restaurant industry’s unusually high average of 145% employee turnover.

The six-month-long beta test at Arby’s store #5775, Struthers, OH, by Berner International, New Castle, PA, tested 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-in. long DTU strategically discharges air from top to bottom of the drive-thru window to maintain the all-important “split” 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,” says Vicki Vitullo, general manager of beta test Arby’s store, one of nine Arby’s franchises owned by Niles Restaurant Business, Youngstown, OH. “If for some reason we forget to switch the air curtain on, fumes and cold weather are definitely noticeable," Vitullo says.