Among Washington workers killed on the job last year were five young men, including one who was just 18 years old. Approximately 80 young men and women between the age of 16 and 24 are hurt on the job each day in Washington State.
As we near the height of the summer job season, the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is reminding young workers to be aware of workplace hazards.
“Something that happens to you when you’re a young worker is going to affect you when you’re 30, 40, 50 years old. It could affect you for the rest of your life,” said Matt Pomerinke, who suffered an amputated arm as a result of an industrial accident when he was 21 years old. Pomerinke now speaks to Washington youth about workplace safety in L&I’s Injured Young Workers Speakers Program.
Young workers are generally injured at work at higher rates than adults. If you are a young worker who started your first job this summer, L&I suggests the following precautions to ensure workplace safety:
- Make sure you receive appropriate training on how to conduct your job and use equipment properly before you begin to work.
- Remember that all workers have the right to say “no” to activities that seem unsafe to them, such as climbing an unstable ladder or operating an unfamiliar piece of equipment. Your manager is prohibited by law from any form of workplace retaliation against employees who refuse to accept hazardous work.
- Assess any hazards at work such as slippery floors, hot oil or grease, hazardous machinery or ladders. If you spot a problem that needs fixing, do not attempt to manage it yourself; instead, seek help from a supervisor.
- Special laws are in place to protect teens under the age of 18; learn about your rights on the job by visiting www.TeenWorkers.Lni.wa.gov.
- If you are injured on the job – even if this is merely a small cut, be sure to report it to your employer, and contact a Seattle work injury lawyer so your rights are protected. This will help ensure that your injury is covered by workers’ compensation if the issue becomes more serious.
- In many cases, an injury is caused by the negligence of a third party, such as the manager of the property where you were hurt or the manufacturer of a particular piece of equipment. If you believe this to be the case in your injury claim, a Seattle third party injury lawyer can help you recover additional damages that are not covered under the workers’ compensation system.
“I tell the students I talk to that they should ask lots of questions and get all the training they can. That’s really the key,” said Matt. “You’re not going to know all the hazards with your job just walking into it.”
To learn more about Matt and the program, visit www.InjuredYoungWorkers.Lni.wa.gov. For information on scheduling a presentation from Matt or L&I’s Injured Young Workers’ Speakers Program, call program manager Xenofon Moniodis at 360-902-6458.