Keeping Teen Workers Safe
Being a teenager means experiencing many of life’s biggest milestones—high school, a driver’s license and for many teens, their first job. According to the American Society of Safety Engineers, about 80 percent of U.S. teens work during their high school years, many of them during the summer. This high number of teen workers unfortunately results in a high number of workplace accidents. About 230,000 teens suffer work-related injuries each year, and 77,000 of them go to the emergency room. Workplace injuries are the fourth-leading cause of death among Americans ages 10 to 19.
There are a number of reasons that teens have workplace accidents. First-time job holders are often eager to prove themselves on the job and act quickly without fully understanding what they are doing. Teens also make up a large percentage of seasonal workers, often working during school breaks through summer and holidays. The most unfortunate statistic is that approximately one-third of teen workers have not had workplace safety training.
The following steps will help employers keep teenagers safe in the workplace:
Comply with federal and state teen labor laws. The laws were built to protect workers, so it is important to adhere to them.
Lead by example. Supervisors and managers should set a unified example. Teens may not ask all the questions they have, so they look to those in charge as examples.
Provide safety equipment. Proper safety equipment is not only a good idea, it’s also the law. Supply staff with masks, gloves, hardhats and other relevant safety equipment and show them how to use the equipment properly.
Know the hazards. Inspect work areas for potential dangers and correct problems before accidents happen. Common workplace hazards include slippery floors, sharp objects or tools, and heavy objects that may fall or need to be moved.
Plan for emergencies. Chemical leaks, fires, severe weather and other emergencies can affect any workplace. Create an emergency plan for evacuating the facility, treating wounds and contacting emergency personnel. Practice the plan regularly. Every employee should know exactly what to do in an emergency, even temporary or seasonal staff.
Be approachable. Make sure teens understand that it is expected for them to ask questions about safety procedures and to report unsafe conditions. Teach them that safety, quality and production are inseparable.
Above all else, teens should know that they have rights as workers regardless of how old they are or how long they’ve been in the workforce. By learning proper safety protocol early in life, teens will be able to transfer these practices into future jobs and continue to stay safe in the workplace.
About 230,000 teens suffer work-related injuries each year, and 77,000 of them go to the emergency room.