Your organization has hired an unprecedented number of workers this summer, and many of them are teenagers. Since most of them lack work experience, you have some concerns about their job safety. What are some steps you can take to help prevent injuries among teenage workers?
Summer jobs can be great learning experiences for young workers. About 3 million teens hold summer jobs each year, and the work is a rewarding experience for most. Yet, while employers generally strive to provide a safe workplace for young workers, about 70 teens die from injuries at work every year, and tens of thousands require treatment in hospital emergency rooms.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers can take the following simple steps to help prevent injuries to working teens:
- Understand and comply with child labor laws and occupational safety and health regulations that apply to your business. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) limits the hours minors under 16 can work and prohibits employing minors under age 18 for certain hazardous occupations.
- Stress safety, particularly among first-line supervisors who have the greatest opportunity to influence teens and their work habits. Make sure that teen workers are appropriately trained and supervised to prevent injuries and hazardous exposures.
- Work with supervisors and experienced workers to develop an injury and illness prevention program and to help identify and solve safety and health problems. Many injuries can be prevented through simple work redesign.
- Assess and eliminate hazards for teen workers. The FLSA prohibits assigning teens to tasks and tools that have accounted for a large number of injuries, such as driving a car or truck, operating tractors or other heavy equipment, and using power tools.
- Train teen workers to recognize hazards and use safe work practices. This is especially important because teens may have had little work experience and new workers have a higher risk of injury. In fact, workers with less than one year's experience account for almost one-third of occupational injuries.