A tight labor market has companies employing younger workers, including teenagers, to fill open jobs.
Keeping these young workers safe is part of the mission of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). To create awareness of this issue, AIHA has joined with The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to create Safety Matters.
The program is a free, one-hour interactive teaching module and PowerPoint presentation targeted to students in grades 7 through 12. The program teaches students a wide range of topics, such as how to identify hazards at work, predicting how workers can be injured or made sick, and to how workers can communicate with others—including people in authority—when they feel unsafe or threatened.
“Recent statistics speak volumes about the risks posed to young workers and the need for proper education and training of these vulnerable workers,” said Lawrence D. Sloan, CEO of AIHA, in a statement. “For many teenagers, their first job is a rite of passage—a way to save money for college or a first car, while learning real-world work skills that they can use throughout their career. Employers have a duty to protect young workers and adhere to local, state and federal child labor laws to keep them safe in the workplace.”
High Injury Rate of Teens
By current estimates, approximately 1.6 million U.S. teens (aged 15-17) have jobs. Every nine minutes, a U.S. teen is injured on the job. Each year, an average of 59,800 workers under the age of 18 are sent to the emergency room for job-related injuries.
Even more alarming, 37 workers under the age of 18 die on the job every year, on average. Parents can play a role in helping teenagers advocate for their safety on the job, including encouraging them to ask questions if they feel their health or safety could be at risk.
Training for Teens
AIHA advises teenagers to consider these questions when starting a new job:
- Does the employer have training procedures for new staff to operate equipment?
- Who is responsible for staff training?
- Does the employer provide proper safety gear, or is it the responsibility of the employee?
- What are the risks associated with the job?
- What is the procedure to report a safety issue or injury on the job?
Teenagers should also be familiar with the laws in their state outlining how late at night teens can work during the school year, as being tired on the job can contribute to potential injuries.
“The best advice for young workers is to know your rights and not be afraid to speak up,” adds Sloan.