Teen Worker Safety

Now that school is out, many teens will be spending their days working at summer jobs. Seasonal employment is an excellent opportunity for young workers. For many, it will be their first real experience in the workforce. For others, it’s going back to the same job they had the summer before. No matter how much experience young workers have, safety should be a top priority.

According to OSHA, some of the top occupations teens take up as summer jobs include landscaping, construction, restaurants, lifeguarding and camp counselors, farm work, and parks and recreation. Each of these occupations presents its own set of risks and hazards, not to mention safety hazards when driving to and from the workplace, as well as the overall health and wellbeing of the teen worker.

Young workers are not as prepared or experienced to handle workplace hazards and accidents. When it comes to identifying and avoiding safety risks, they need more training than older adults. In 2015, 403 workers under the age of 24 died from work-related injuries. These injuries are often the result of the many hazards present in the places they typically work, such as sharp knives and slippery floors in restaurants. Employers, parents, and young adult employees have a lot of responsibility when it comes to staying safe on the job.

Teen workers, their parents, and their employers should take time to familiarize themselves with state and federal laws about the occupation and youth labor within that occupation. For example, in construction, the law prohibits teen workers from performing tasks such as roofing, driving power-driven machines, or work more than 10 feet above the ground or floor level. Here are some other common rules for employers who hire teen workers:

14- and 15-year-olds may perform light tasks such as:

  • Clerical work

  • Cashiering and stocking shelves

  • Bagging and carrying groceries

  • Janitorial and grounds maintenance

16- and 17-year-olds can do such things as:

  • Cooking

  • Baking

  • Landscaping

  • Window washing

  • Maintenance and repair

  • Amusement-park work

If a job task requires safety equipment beyond the use of a hard hat, eye, protection, and gloves, it is probably not an appropriate task for teenage workers.

Be mindful of how many hours each age group can work. Hours may vary depending on state requirements. Hours may also differ depending on if school is still in session versus when it is officially out for the summer.

There are even more restrictions for teenage workers in the agriculture industry. Often time, agriculture rules prohibit teen workers from using certain chemicals and pesticides.

Employers who fail to adhere to their state’s standards for youth labor can find themselves in a lot of trouble.

For parents, knowing where your teen will be working, what their daily tasks are, and the potential hazards of the job can help you to educate and remind your teen to follow safety guidelines set by their employer. Teens should also be mindful of potential dangers in the industry and be proactive in avoiding and reporting those potential hazards to their employers.

While there are a lot of restrictions on what teen workers can and can’t do on the job, there are several benefits to businesses who choose to employ young workers.

  • They expect lower pay and fewer benefits. Because teens typically work entry-level and unskilled positions, they are satisfied making minimum wage. Often they only work part time and don’t require the same amount of employee benefits as full-time employees.

  • They offer new ideas and a willingness to learn. One of the most overlooked benefits of hiring teen workers is the fresh perspective they bring to the workplace. They may offer new ideas and approach tasks in innovative ways. Teens also possess a willingness to learn new skills and have a positive outlook on job training and education.

  • They could qualify businesses for tax incentives. Some states offer employers tax breaks for hiring teen workers. Benefits and hiring requirements may vary from state to state.

  • They are the next generation of the industry. Hiring young workers means inspiring the next generation of the workforce to take up jobs in otherwise overlooked industries. Young workers who are desperate for a summer job are willing to take on positions in various industries. Older generations of workers have the opportunity to train, groom, and pique the interest of these young workers as a way to encourage them to consider the industry as a full-time job opportunity in the future.

As more teenage workers are seeking seasonal employment during summer break, teens, their parents, and employers should make safety a priority. Becoming familiar with industry safety standards and being trained on proper safety procedures is important. Whether educating teens on the basics of safety protocol or adhering to state mandates as they pertain to youth labor, employers must do their part to ensure that their summer hires are not putting themselves or their coworkers at risk.

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