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June 5, 2002

Safety should be a priority as teens begin summer jobs

TUMWATER - Summer jobs for teenagers shouldn't result in summertime injuries. The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) reminds teens, parents and employers that workplace safety should be a top priority as teens finish the school year and start jobs.

Agency research shows that teens are two to three times more likely to be hurt on the job than adults. They typically suffer lacerations, strains and sprains, burns and contusions as they work in restaurants, grocery and department stores, health-care facilities, amusement parks and recreation facilities, or in agriculture. More serious injuries also occur, including fractures, concussions, amputations and, occasionally, even fatalities.

"For many teenagers, a summer job is their first entry into the working world," said L&I Director Gary Moore. "It shouldn't be their first introduction to an occupational injury. Teenage workers are not just younger versions of adult employees. Teenagers need more guidance and mentoring to develop safe, responsible and healthful work habits."

Those who employ teens are required to obtain a minor work endorsement for their master business license, as well as a parent authorization form for the job assignments and hours the teen will be working. Here are some of the rules regarding teens in the workplace:

  • In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may be employed to perform lighter tasks such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves, bagging and carrying groceries, janitorial and grounds maintenance (but not operating power mowers or cutters), and food service (but not involving cooking or baking).
  • Work assignments for teens 16 years and older can be less restrictive. Their jobs may include such things as cooking, baking, landscaping, window washing (no more than 10 feet off the ground), maintenance and repair, and amusement-park work.
  • 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.
  • Fourteen- and 15-year-olds can work up to 40 hours per week while school is not in session; those 16 years and older can work 48 hours.

Agricultural rules prohibit all minors from working with certain chemicals, pesticides and explosives, and in other hazardous jobs. Additional restrictions, including operating equipment, apply to minors under age 16.

More information is available at www.LNI.wa.gov/scs/workstandards/teenworker.htm or 360-902-5316. Also, L&I and the Washington Restaurant Association are jointly sponsoring a special program aimed specifically at preventing injuries to teen workers in quick-service restaurants. Information about that program, which includes "Supervising for Safety" workshops for employers, is available at www.LNI.wa.gov/scs/workstandards/teensafety/, or by calling 360-902-6041.

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Media note: An occupational health specialist at L&I who is an expert on teens in the workplace is available for interviews. If interested, contact Steve Pierce, L&I, 360-902-5405.

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