If you are a parent of a high school or college age kid, you are probably familiar with the quest for the summer job. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, more than 2 million teen workers flock to the workplace, many for the first time. Think back to your first job - it can be an exciting thing to earn that first paycheck. It can also be very dangerous. Every year, about 70 teens are killed on the job and about a quarter of a million suffer injuries on the job (source). That means that about once every three minutes, a teen gets hurt at work.
All first-time workers are vulnerable to work injuries, teens especially so, often because of youthful feelings of invincibility. New workers aren't yet work hardened. Because they don't know their limits, they are more susceptible to overexertion, strains, and sprains. Young workers typically aren't seasoned enough to have good judgement about risks. Eager to make a good impression, they often don't want to ask for help, question authority, or call attention to themselves in any way.
Most work-related teen deaths occur as the result of motor-vehicles or as a result of machine related accidents. Agriculture has accounted for more than 40% of these fatalities, followed by the wholesale/retail trade, and construction. Frequent nonfatal injuries include lacerations, contusions, abrasions, sprains, or strains. Weather related injuries are also common - sunburns, heat exposure, and the like. The pattern of nonfatal injuries follows the most common types of employment: wholesale/retail and service industries.
Over the month, we'll follow up with more information on this topic. today, we'd like to address parents, and urge parents (or aunts, uncles, friends) to be proactive about teen worker safety:
Familiarize yourself with child labor laws in your state. Know the hours they can work, and restrictions on the type of work they can do. For example, according to the the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE):
" ...by law, your employer must provide protective clothing and equipment necessary for your job, payment for medical expenses if you are injured at work and training in on-the-job safety; and, that on a school day, a 15-year-old is only permitted to work up to three hours a day. Sixteen year-olds are limited to the type of work they can do. For instance, out of these jobs -- A. operating a meat slicing machine at a deli counter, B. driving a forklift at a warehouse, C. waiting tables at a restaurant, or D. performing demolition work at a construction site -- a 16 year-old is legally only allowed to work waiting tables.
... Teenagers are not allowed to work in mining, logging, meatpacking, roofing, excavation or demolition, according to labor laws. They cannot drive a car or forklift or work with saws, explosives, radioactive materials, or most machines."
Take a detailed interest in your teen's work - talk to your child about what they do on the job and talk specifically about safety matters. Ask a lot of questions:
-Do you work alone?
-Who is your supervisor? Is he or she in your work area with you?
-Do you use any equipment or machinery? Have you had training?
- What would you do if…
Trust your instincts - call or visit a workplace before your teen starts work. If you have any misgivings after work starts, follow-up with the boss or the supervisor.
Other resources for parents:
Department of Labor's Youth & Labor page
OSHA: Do you have a working teen?
Clocking in for Trouble - Teens and Unsafe Work
Teen Workers: Avoid 2005’s Five Worst Jobs this Summer
Working the Smart Shift: Helping Parents Help their Teens Avoid Dangerous Jobs
Driving on the Job: New law for teen Workers
Teen Driving Safety
Your Teen at Work: Tips for Parents