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June 13, 2000

Teens need safe job experiences this summer

TUMWATER - As teens close the books on the school year, many start opening the want ads to look for jobs. And their work experiences need to leave them still safe and healthy at summer's end.

State and national data show that teens are two to three times more likely to be hurt on the job than adults. Most teenagers work in retail establishments, like stores and restaurants. Most on-the-job deaths of young workers result from car crashes and tractor rollovers, while many injuries come from operating meat slicers and dough mixers, activities that are prohibited by federal and state statutes as too dangerous for workers under 18.

"Having a summer job is an exciting and beneficial experience for a teenager. But it needs to be a safe experience," said Director Gary Moore. "Keeping teen workers safe means parents must play an active role - they must talk to their kids 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."

For examples of questions teens should ask their employers and other helpful information, look at L&I's Internet web page "Help for Teen Workers" at:

www.lni.wa.gov/scs/workstandards/teenworker.htm

There you'll find information about the rules for minor workers in these L&I publications:

"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."

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.

Here are some of the rules employers and parents should be aware of for non-agricultural workers:

  • 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 older 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 age 14 and 15 can work up to 40 hours per week while school is not in session - 16 year olds and above can work 48 hours. 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.

For agricultural workers, there are rules in place that prohibit specific farm duties for minors, such as working around specific chemicals and pesticides and operating certain types of farm equipment.

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.

If you have questions, call your local Labor & Industries service center or the Department of Labor & Industries Employment Standards program at 360-902-5316.

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