Young workers more likely to get hurt — talk with teens about workplace safety
TUMWATER — Summertime often means first jobs for teens and young adults. Unfortunately, it can also mean on-the-job injuries for these new workers.
Younger workers are hurt in Washington at a rate that’s significantly higher than older adults.
Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) data show there were 175 cases of cuts and lacerations among teen workers last year. Other frequent on-the-job injuries included 150 sprains and strains, and nearly 85 cases of bruises and contusions. L&I investigates workplace injuries to find and correct issues that put workers at risk.
Most injuries to young workers resulted from slips and falls, contact with hot surfaces such as a stove or oven, or being hit by a falling object – all of which are preventable.
L&I wants young workers to know their rights on the job, and encourages parents to talk with teens new to the workforce about what specifically they’re doing at work and what kind of training they’ve received.
“Parents should ask whether their children are receiving safety instruction on the job and encourage them to speak up if they’re asked to do something that they feel is unsafe,” said Joshua Grice, manager of the L&I Employment Standards Program that oversees employment issues, including those involving teens. “Teens should also take an active role in safety at work by reporting potential hazards to managers and by putting their safety training into practice.”
Teen workplace safety violations
Employers of teens received a record number of citations in 2018 for violating workplace rules. In total, 83 employers faced fines that added up to nearly $441,500. Violations so far this year are on pace to exceed last year’s number.
Most of the citations are for violating hours of work and for missing or late meal breaks and rest periods for teens 16–17. Workplaces were also commonly cited for lacking Parent/School Authorization forms or not having evidence of a teen’s age at the worksite.
“It’s important for employers to emphasize safety, especially with young workers who are new to the workforce. Employers should also make sure that teens receive appropriate meals and rest periods, and work only the specified hours,” said Grice.
There are ongoing efforts to raise awareness about workplace teen safety. Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed May “Teen Worker Safety Month.” And L&I’s Injured Young Workers Speakers is now in its 10th year. The program features speakers who were seriously injured on the job as young adults. Presentations take place in schools statewide, reaching thousands of students annually.
Information about hiring teens and prohibited duties is at www.Lni.wa.gov/TeenWorkers.
Matthew Erlich, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6508.