In an effort to help educate employers, parents and young workers in California about preventing workplace injuries, Gov. Gray Davis proclaimed May "Safe Jobs for Youth Month."
State and federal agencies are working together in this public information campaign to increase the awareness of child labor laws and health and safety issues.
Thousands of young workers 14-18 years old will begin new jobs this summer in California.
Many industries will employ youth in food service, as courtesy clerks in grocery stores, on construction sites and as cashiers in customer service and retail.
Unfortunately, these jobs can also involve injury and disability if young workers are not informed of the hazards.
Young workers face risks from:
- Late hours -- increasing the risks and vulnerability to crime.
- Long hours -- potential hazards when working alone and when experiencing frequent contact with the public.
- Unsafe or broken equipment.
- Hot oil and cooking surfaces.
- Powered equipment such as box crushers, bakery machines and forklifts.
"Jobs can be a great way to gain valuable experience and income. But they need to be safe jobs," said Diane Bush of UC Berkeley''s Labor Occupational Health Program, a coordinator of Safe Jobs for Youth Month. "California has labor laws that protect young workers. We want employers, parents and young workers to know what the laws are. Young workers should not be getting hurt on their first job. This is a chance to help them develop safety skills that will last them a lifetime."
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, every year in the United States an estimated 200,000 young workers are injured on the job.
An estimated 70,000 are injured seriously enough to go to the emergency room.
Studies suggest that youth job injury rates are higher than those of adults, despite the fact that youths are prohibited from working in the most hazardous occupations.
"Our young workers should be entering the workforce knowing that they''ll get health and safety training, and ask for it if they don''t," said Bush. "They should be learning to take responsibility for problems they see and know it''s okay to tell their boss."
The Web site, www.youngworkers.org, includes tips for young workers, parents, employers and educators on keeping youth safe at work.
This is a collaborative effort by the Department of Industrial Relations, the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers'' Compensation and the California Resource Network for Young Workers'' Health and Safety, coordinated by UC Berkeley''s Labor Occupational Health Program.
by Virginia Sutcliffe