As we near the summer hiring season, LynchRyan reminds employers that workers compensation laws do not distinguish temporary hires from regular year-round employees. Anyone who works for you, no matter for how long, is protected by workers compensation. This is as it should be.
We caution employers to hire carefully. There is no such thing as an unimportant hire. When it comes to offering work experience to young people -- still in high school or college -- a few cautions are in order:
First, do not allow these new hires to operate heavy equipment. Indeed, you should probably not allow them to operate any equipment that entails risk. In one tragic case from last summer, a high school student in Massachusetts was killed when he ran a fork lift off of a loading ramp.
In addition, never assume that a summer hire knows how to do the work, no matter how simple the task may appear. Whether it's pounding nails or filing, summer hires need guidance and supervision. Doing a job the right way is not necessarily something students have learned in school.
Finally, if you have young people on the summer payroll, don't just "toss them the keys." Young people are, by definition, inexperienced drivers. Unless you know them and their driving habits very well, keep them busy in safe activities other than driving. Youthful exuberance is a wonderful quality -- but not when it comes to driving or operating equipment. It's your responsibility as an employer to make sure that this first or second job experience is not the student's last.
For more information on safe driving, see our article entitled, "Where the Rubber Meets the Road."