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June 15, 1998

L&I encourages a safe summer for teens at work

TUMWATER - With school days soon turning to work days for thousands of Washington teens, the Department of Labor & Industries is urging employers to do everything possible to ensure a safe work environment for kids with summer jobs.

Teens are three times more likely to be hurt on the job than adults agency research has shown.

"Having a summer job can be a very beneficial experience for teens, but it has to be safe," Director Gary Moore said. "We urge parents to take an active role - talk to their children about the work they're doing and the potential hazards. And we urge employers to be sure the work they are hiring teens to do is appropriate for their age level."

Many hazardous duties are prohibited under state law for teens under 18, but even so, nearly 4,000 injury and illness claims from adolescents are filed with L&I each year, including such injuries as serious lacerations, burns, fractures and back injuries.

Those who employ teens are required to obtain a minor work permit from L&I and parent authorization for the job assignments and hours the teen will be assigned. Here are some of the rules employers and parents should be aware of:

  • In general, 14- and 15-year-olds can be employed to perform only such light tasks as sweeping, cashiering and office work. And all of it must be at ground level.
  • Work assignments for teens 16 and above can be less restrictive, like cooking, heavier cleaning or landscape maintenance. But they can't use power-driven tools or saws, or operate a vehicle. Neither are they allowed to work around heavy equipment or on a ladder taller than 10 feet.
  • Generally, if safety equipment other than a hard hat, eye protection or gloves is required to do the job, then it's not an appropriate job for minors.
  • Minors aged 14 and 15 can work up to 40 hours per week while school's not in session - 16 years and above can work 48. They can put in no more than six days per week, with limits on how early and late they can work.
  • A responsible adult must always be present.

"Employers should stress safety all the time with their teenage workers," said L&I Employment Standards program manager Greg Mowat. "They need to make sure teen workers are appropriately trained and supervised to prevent injuries. And of course employers need to make sure their workplaces are safe."

The U.S. Department of Labor teen safety hot-line number is (800) 959-3652. 

More information on regulations affecting teen workers in Washington can be found on L&I's Internet web site. If you have questions, call your local Labor & Industries service center or the Employment Standards program at 360-902-5316.

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For media information, contact: 
L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5400 or publicaffairs@lni.wa.gov

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