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May 13, 2008

Make safety a priority when hiring teens for the summer

TUMWATER — A tighter job market may challenge teens looking for work this summer, but the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) says that’s another reminder to teens, parents and employers to make workplace safety a top priority as teens start summer jobs.

"Teens and their parents may be grateful and excited for those summer jobs and may not question a workplace hazard or situation that doesn’t seem right,” said L&I Director Judy Schurke. “Teens are eager to work, earn and learn, and we must do all we can to create safe workplaces for them.”

Teens under 18 are injured on the job at a higher rate than adults, according to state and national data. Nearly 50 percent of injuries to teens occur during the first six months on the job. Creating safe workplaces for teens includes providing adequate training, following laws that prohibit teens from operating dangerous equipment and, in general, giving them extra supervision and lots of repetition, particularly when they’re new to the job.

“We’re seeing serious injuries, particularly in construction jobs, that occur when teens are doing work that is prohibited for anyone under 18,” Schurke added.

Teens are often eager to get started in construction and may have opportunities through family or friends. But many construction jobs – such as working from rooftops or operating nail guns and power saws – are prohibited.

L&I recommends starting with resources available at the L&I Teen Safety Web site, (www.Teenworkers.Lni.wa.gov), including an online video featuring a teen who was seriously injured at her first job.

Employers who hire teens must obtain a minor work endorsement on 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 workplace rules covering teen workers:

  • In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may perform lighter tasks such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves, bagging and carrying groceries, janitorial and grounds maintenance (without operating power mowers or cutters), and food service that does not involve cooking or baking duties.
  • Work assignments for 16- and 17-year-olds 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, then it's not an appropriate job for minors.
  • Fourteen- and 15-year-olds can work up to 40 hours a week while school is not in session; 16- and 17-year-olds can work up to 48 hours a week.
  • All minors are prohibited from working with powered equipment such as meat slicers and forklifts, explosives, pesticides and most chemicals.
  • In agricultural jobs, additional restrictions apply to minors under age 16.

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Media note: An L&I occupational health specialist who is an expert on teens in the workplace is available for interviews. If interested, contact Elaine Fischer, L&I public affairs, 360-902-5413 or nele235@Lni.wa.gov.

Broadcast version
A tighter job market may challenge teens looking for work this summer, but the Washington Department of Labor & Industries says that’s another reminder to teens, parents and employers to make workplace safety a priority.

Teens may be less likely to question a workplace hazard because they are inexperienced or eager to have the job. L&I has seen serious injuries — particularly in construction — where teens are doing work that is prohibited for anyone under 18.

L&I has resources to help teens, employers, parents and teachers create safer workplaces, including an online video. That, and more, can be found at online at TeenWorkers dot LNI dot wa dot gov. (Teenworkers.Lni.wa.gov)

 

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