Thousands of young workers - ages 14 to 18 - will have jobs this summer in California. To protect those young workers, Gov. Gray Davis proclaimed May "Safe Jobs for Youth Month" to focus attention on preventing workplace injuries.
"Jobs are a great way for young people to gain valuable experience and income. But young workers need to be informed to stay safe on the job," says Stephen J. Smith, director of the California Department of Industrial Relations. "California's labor laws and safety and health laws protect young workers and we want to remind employers, parents and young workers what the laws are," Smith adds.
Every year, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 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.
"I was an assistant at an auto body repair shop when I was 15. I didn't receive the minimum wage, I was exposed to hazardous chemicals, and I was overworked," says Juan Garcia, now a college student. "If I knew what my rights were then, I would have talked to my employer."
Juan attended an after-school program at UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health and learned about safety on the job and worker rights. He became an advocate, teaching classes on health and safety as an intern and he is now attending college full-time.
"Young workers should enter the workforce knowing they'll get health and safety training, and ask for it if they don't," insists Diane Bush of UC Berkeley's Labor Occupational Health Program, a coordinator of Safe Jobs for Youth Month. "This is a chance to help young workers develop safety skills that will last them a lifetime. They should be learning to take responsibility for problems they see and know it's okay to tell their boss."
Potential hazards facing young workers are:
- Late hours - increase the risks and vulnerability to crime.
- Long hours - create potential hazards when working alone and when experiencing frequent contact with the public.
- Working around unsafe or broken equipment.
- Cooking with hot oil and on hot cooking surfaces.
- Using powered equipment such as box crushers, bakery machines and forklifts.
Information about Safe Jobs for Youth month is available at www.youngworkers.org for young workers, parents, employers and educators.
This public information campaign in California is a collaborative effort by the California Partnership on Young Workers' Health and Safety, California Teachers Association, California Department of Industrial Relations, Labor Occupational Health Program at the UC Berkeley, California Chamber of Commerce, California Department of Education, United Food and Commercial Workers, Labor Occupational Safety and Health at UCLA and the PTA.
edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])