ASSE: Teens More Likely to Be Injured

Young workers are exposed to many of the same on-the-job risks as their adult counterparts, but they are more likely than adults to be injured at work, according to an article in the June issue of the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) Professional Safety journal.

The article – which is titled “Protecting Young Workers – Coordinated Strategies Help to Raise Safety Awareness” – notes that with the arrival of the summer season, teens are eager to find employment but don't always consider safety when applying for potentially risky jobs.

Statistics indicate that teens are injured at a rate of at least two times higher than adult workers in some occupational sectors. Nationally, approximately 230,000 teens suffer work-related injuries each year, with 77,000 of those seeking emergency room care. The article's authors note that more than 80 percent of these injuries occur in the retail or service industries.

Speaking up Is Difficult

According to the authors, teen workers – due to their age and lack of experience – often lack the wherewithal to assess whether a job task or situation is safe.

“Speaking up to an adult or a person of authority is difficult for many young workers,” the article says. “They often seek increased responsibilities and do not want to appear to not know what they are doing. This makes them less inclined to ask questions.”

Unlike adults, adolescents have less-developed cognitive abilities, physical coordination and overall maturity, and they experience a rapidly changing physiology. Additionally, teens may not feel empowered to report concerns or fears when addressing a dangerous workplace situation.

Teens Must Ask Questions Before Starting Jobs

Much is being done to educate teens, parents, employers and communities on what they can do to prevent teen workplace injuries and illnesses. Many states and organizations, such as ASSE and their members, are working together to help prevent teen injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

Those collaborations include volunteer workplace safety instruction in the high schools, YouthRules! rallies in various cities such as Houston and Web sites such as:

The article's authors also point out that teens as well as their parents and employers should familiarize themselves with federal and state laws about teen worker safety. Teens should be able to know what safety questions to ask their employer before starting a new job.

Those questions should include:

  • What are the physical demands of my job?
  • What are my hours?
  • Will I be working alone or with others?
  • What safety gear will I need to wear?
  • What workplace hazards should I be aware of (e.g., noise, chemicals)?
  • What safety training will I receive and when will I receive it?
  • Where are the first aid supplies and fire extinguishers located?
  • Does my employer have a worker safety policy and an emergency action plan?
  • Is there an occupational safety and health professional on staff?

For a full copy of the article go to http://www.asse.org/professionalsafety/docs/38_MilleretalFeature_June2007.pdf.

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