The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries released new data in May as part of "Safe Jobs for Youth Month." The data found that more youth, aged 17 and under, were injured at work in Washington in 2014 compared to the previous year. Falls were the leading cause of injuries in the food and retail industries.
"A youth injured on the job can face challenges at home and school," said L&I Director Joel Sacks. "Training and good workplace safety practices are incredibly important for these young workers because on-the-job injuries can have a lifetime of consequences."
A total of 547 youth aged 17 and under were injured in the workplace in 2014, up nearly 14.7 percent over the previous year. Of the total, 173 were in the food and hospitality industries. The next highest total, 80, was reported each in the retail trades and agriculture. It's possible that the increase may be in part due to the improving job market.
"We want to ensure that employers have youth performing safe and appropriate work," Sacks said. "I encourage parents to ask questions and make sure they know the specific duties their child is performing on the job."
All workers have a right to appropriate training and can refuse work assignments that are unsafe. In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may perform lighter tasks, such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves. Work assignments for 16- and 17-year-olds can be less restrictive and can include cooking, landscaping and construction. The limits on hours worked varies by age.
Many older teens are new to the workforce as well and can face hazardous situations on the job. In 2014, an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old died in work-related incidents. The tragic deaths involved work at a logging operation and a landscaping firm.
More information about teen workers is available at www.TeenWorkers.Lni.wa.gov.