Do you know where your teenager is? More importantly, do you know what your teen is doing on his or her summer job?
As summer approaches, many teens are excited to have their first real jobs. Unfortunately, while working, some of them will be hurt – possibly seriously.
Parents, employers and youth all play a critical role in teen worker safety, according to Josie Bryan, child labor specialist with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
“Teens new to the workforce may feel they have to say yes to every task they’re assigned,” said Bryan. “We want to make sure young workers get the training they should, know their rights and always ask questions, especially whenever they’re concerned for their safety.”
Young workers have a higher rate of getting hurt on the job than older adults. In Washington, 635 work-related injuries to teens age 17 and under were reported in 2015. The number of teen workplace injuries has been on the rise since 2010. Still, the total is significantly lower than the 2,336 cases reported in 2000.
In July 2014, 19-year-old Bradley Hogue was killed by an auger while working inside the hopper of a bark-blower truck. It was his second day on the job. L&I cited and fined the company he worked for after an investigation found numerous safety violations.
Bradley’s dad and mom, Alan and Deanna Hogue, have a message for parents of teens entering the workforce.
“I would find out what my child was doing,” said Deanna Hogue, at a Worker Memorial Day commemoration. “I would research it, then I would sit down with him and, if there are dangers involved, tell him no job is worth a life.”
L&I urges parents to ask young people about the equipment they use on the job and whether they have been asked to do anything unsafe. All workers have a right to appropriate training and can refuse work assignments that are unsafe, Bryan says.
The 2015 figures show most injuries – 249 – occurred in the retail and food services. Cuts, sprains and strains and back injuries make up nearly half of all injuries reported.
In general, the law allows 14- and 15-year-olds to perform tasks such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves; but they can’t cook, bake or use power equipment.
Youth ages 16 and 17 are allowed to do more at work, but there are still restrictions. For example, they can’t operate or work around heavy, moving equipment. They’re also not allowed to use equipment like meat slicers or meat grinders. For a list of restrictions, see www.Lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/TeenWorkers/Prohibited.
Employers must have a minor work permit endorsement on their business license to legally hire teens. It’s the employer’s responsibility to complete an authorization form that the teen, parent, and school – during the school year – must sign. Workplaces must also keep proof of age for their teen workers on file.
L&I began “Safe Jobs for Youth Month” more than 15 years ago.