Protecting Young Workers on the Job

By February 7, 2020 News, Safety

It is very exciting when you get your first job.  You finally are able to earn your own money, work with a team and learn more responsibility.  The thought of being injured on the job does not cross your mind.  But this is definitely something you should keep in the back of your mind especially if you are working in construction. 

OSHA views “young workers” as employees under the age of 25.  Statistics reveal that one teenage worker is injured on the job every nine minutes and young workers are twice as likely to be injured on the job then older workers. 

Why are young workers more likely to be injured on the job?

  • Young workers generally have more physically demanding jobs
  • Lack of experience in the job or task they are asked to perform
  • Often don’t receive adequate safety and health training for the job
  • Less likely to speak up and ask questions
  • May not be aware of their rights on the job

What can employers do to help educate their employees? Employers need to be aware of the rules that restrict employees under 18 from performing certain jobs or job functions.  The Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) includes youth employment provisions designed to protect young workers by limiting the types of jobs they can perform and the number or hours they can work.  Employees that are under 18 are prohibited from performing jobs involving:

  • Forklift and other power-driven hoisting equipment operation
  • Manufacturing or storing explosives
  • Any driving for 16 year olds, certain driving for 17 year olds and being an outside helper on a motor vehicle
  • Coal and other mining
  • Logging and saw milling, forest fire prevention, forest fire fighting, timber tract services, forestry services
  • Power-driven woodworking machines
  • Exposure to radioactive substances and to ionizing radiation
  • Power-driven metal-forming, punching and shearing machines
  • Meat packing and meat poultry processing, including power-driven meat slicing machines in retail and food service establishments
  • Power-driven circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears
  • Wrecking, demolition and ship breaking operations
  • Roofing occupations and all work on or about a roof
  • Excavation operations

Any employer who is considering bringing on workers younger than 18 needs to closely review the requirements of the FSLA and stress the importance of safety with their young employees.  Keep safety top of mind and share examples that are relatable to young workers. 

OSHA shares the following responsibilities employers have to their young workers:

  • Ensure that young workers receive training to recognize hazards and are competent in safe work practices.  Training should be in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand.  This should include prevention of fires, accidents and violent situations and what to do if injured.
  • Implement a mentoring or buddy system for new young workers.  Have an adult or experienced young worker answer any questions and help the new young worker learn what to do on the new job. Encourage them to ask questions about procedures that are unclear.
  • Be mindful of communicating with young workers.
  • Ensure equipment operated by young workers is both legal and safe for them to use.  Put labels on equipment that young workers are not allowed to operate.
  • Tell young workers what to do if they get injured on the job and offer help.  Communication is key and safety is a consistent part of the conversation

Parents, encourage your children to ask safety questions and for a clear job description during their initial interviews. 

  • Have they received any safety training?
  • Is their work environment clean?
  • Is there potential exposure to hazardous materials?
  • Are they working in close proximity to others?
  • Does the supervisor check in regularly?
  • What is the employer’s robbery protocol?

Parents can report hazards to managers if necessary or to OSHA if a work environment seems unsafe.  Watch for signs of concern in your child.  Is the job taking too much of a physical or mental toll on your young worker?  A loss of interest in school could mean the job is too demanding.  Other signs include lack of energy, increased stress levels, anxiety, fatigue and depression.  Just like with employers and supervisors at work, communication is key at home.  OSHA encourages educators to incorporate information about workers’ rights and occupational safety and health hazards into their middle school and high school curriculums.  Safety and safe practices must be a core component of all vocational study classes or programs. 

Young workers must understand they are their own safety advocates.  They must take safety training seriously and ask for questions for clarity.  If there is no safety training offered, they should bring it up to management and request that training be available for all employees.  Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH) young workers, along with all workers have the right to:

  • Work in a safe place
  • Receive relevant safety and health training
  • Ask questions for greater clarity or if something seems unsafe
  • Use and be trained on required safety gear (hard hats, googles, ear plugs, hazmat suits)
  • Exercise workplace safety rights without retaliation or discrimination

File a confidential complaint with OSHA if the employer is not following OSHA standards or if you believe there is a serious hazard

Not every job is a match for a worker’s skill set or comfort level.  It is ok to try something new rather than feel unsafe at work at any age. Frontier Industrial Corporation puts the safety of their employees first no matter what.  We pride ourselves on training our employees and providing them with the best and most reliable safety equipment available. 

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