With the approach of the summer job season, the state’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is urging young workers to be mindful of the workplace hazards around them.
“Something that happens to you when you’re a young worker is going to affect you when you’re 30, 40, 50 years old. It could affect you for the rest of your life,” said Matt Pomerinke, who lost an arm to an industrial accident when he was 21 and now speaks to teens about workplace safety for L&I’s Injured Young Workers Speakers Program.
Young workers tend to be hurt at work at a higher rate than adults. If you’re a young worker about to start your first job this summer, here are some tips to stay safe:
1. Always get proper training on how to complete a job or use equipment properly before you begin the work.
2. You have the right to say “no” to tasks you feel unsafe doing, such as climbing a ladder or operating a new piece of equipment. Your boss cannot retaliate against you for refusing hazardous work.
3. Look for hazards at work, like slippery floors, hot grease, dangerous machinery or ladders. If you see a hazard or a problem that needs fixing, don’t try to do it yourself; ask a supervisor for help.
4. There are special laws that protect teens under 18. Make sure you know your rights on the job.
5. If you are injured at work, even a small cut, be sure to report it. That way you’ll be covered by workers’ compensation if the problem becomes more serious.
“I tell the students I talk to that they should ask lots of questions and get all the training they can. That’s really the key,” said Pomerinke. “You’re not going to know all the hazards with your job just walking into it.”
Now 34, Pomerinke appears at schools and worksites across the state as part of L&I’s Injured Young Workers’ Speakers Program. Washington state employers interested in information about scheduling a presentation can call program manager Xenofon Moniodis at 360-902-6458.