There are millions of teenagers that have after school jobs or full time jobs in the summer months.  Safety concerns need to be addressed regarding this workforce of youngsters, anxious to prove themselves.  Most of them are so eager to please their employers and make a good impression, they don’t realize their well-being is endangered if they don’t work safely.  They may lack the maturity to recognize hazardous situations.
Child labor laws exist that prohibit youngsters under certain ages from operating equipment, motor vehicles, cooking in restaurants, etc.  According to the National Institute of Safety and Health, one of the most dangerous industries for young workers is agriculture.  From 1992-2000, one-half of the young victims of farm fatalities were under 15.  For ages 15-17, the risk is four times greater than other workplaces.   Workers must be age 18 to qualify for certain agriculture-related jobs.
Retail trades came in second in the above statistics.  Working in retail stores during early or late hours is less safe for workers of all ages, and there are laws that restrict teenagers from working certain hours.  Restaurants, such as fast food establishments, employ a huge number of young workers. Again, those under 16 are not allowed to cook or perform certain other tasks that present risks.  The other two industries that involve hazards for teenage workers are transportation and construction.  Child labor laws prohibit those under 18 from operating certain types of machinery or equipment, and in the construction field, workers age 14-15 may work only in the office, away from a construction site.
Suggestions for employers of teens:

  • Furnish proper training.  Video training of hazardous or dangerous situations may get their attention better than regular class-type sessions.
  • Pair a more experienced worker with your new worker.  Let them be a safety mentor for the first week or so.  That way your older employees feel that they have a responsibility to meet as well.
  • Make the teens more visible by providing brightly colored i.d. tags, so everyone on the job knows they may need a little more help.
  • Leaders should set a good example when it comes to safety by making rounds often to let them know they are being observed.
  • Send a letter to the parents, including your safety policies, and solicit their support.
  • Let the new “kids on the block” know that you expect them to ask questions, as that’s the only way they can learn.

Looking out for the safety of our young workers is of the utmost importance.  We are looking out for their future.  That first job will be one they will remember the rest of their lives.  It is up to parents, employers, and coworkers to make it a great experience, but we must be sure that they understand the consequences of carelessness.  Someday, they will be protecting someone else’s child who is new on the job.