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Making the Workplace Safer for Teens with Summer Jobs

teen jobsWashington Governor Jay Inslee has designated May as Safe Jobs for Youth Month in anticipation of the coming summer jobs season, when many teens seek full and part time employment.

While a number of teens simply feel lucky to get a job, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is reminding Washington youth, as well as parents and employers, that the number one priority needs to providing a safe workplace, and minimizing job injuries and accidents.

In a statement released earlier this month, L&I Director Joel Sacks noted that “Teens are eager to work and may not always question a workplace situation that doesn’t seem right, so we must all do what we can to create safe workplaces for them.”

Employment Law

Employment and on-the-job training are important milestones for our youth, and can be a useful experience in learning about different career options they may want to pursue (or avoid). However, for too many young workers, their first employment experience is not a positive one. Statistically, youth workers are injured at significantly higher rates than their adult counterparts.

Over the past ten years, a group of schools, businesses, labor unions, workers compensation attorneys, employment lawyers, governmental agencies and others have made a concerted effort to reduce injury rates among young workers.

“The effort to provide teen-specific job safety information and advice needs to continue,” said Sacks. “And L&I has resources to provide targeted help to teens, employers, parents and teachers.”

Workplace Accident

L&I recommends that employers identify the following steps as their most important safety priorities when they hire teens:  1) Ensure adequate training.  2) Observe all laws and regulations that prohibit teens from operating dangerous equipment. 3) Provide extra supervision and reiterate instructions, concerns about safety issues and any restrictions that may apply. The Department of Labor and Industries also provides additional tips for lowering workplace accidents.

Businesses who hire teens also need a minor work permit endorsement on their business license, along with parental consent for particular job assignments and the number of hours that employee will work.

This list offer some additional workplace rules that apply to 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.
  • 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.
  • Generally, if safety equipment other than a hard hat, eye protection or gloves is required, then it’s not an appropriate job for minors.
  • All minors are prohibited from working with powered equipment such as meat slicers and forklifts, explosives, pesticides and most chemicals.
  • In agricultural jobs, restricted job duties differ.

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