As summer approaches and teenagers in Washington look to line up jobs for the season, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries is pushing employers, parents and others to rally behind its current “Safe Jobs for Youth Month.”
Last summer more than 450 young workers (ages 12-17) sustained a workplace injury, making observation of this year’s safety campaign more important than ever, said Mary E. Miller, L&I occupational injury consultant and youth employment expert. Our of that total of injured youth, 156 worked in the food and hospitality/recreation industries. Retail jobs came in with the second highest number of injuries, at 66 total. Fortunately, none of the injuries resulted in a workplace fatality in Washington State.
“Teens are eager to work and may not question a workplace situation that doesn’t seem right,” Miller said. “We’re trying to ensure youth perform safe and appropriate work and employers, parents and teachers can all help.”
Earlier this month Governor Jay Inslee signed an announcement designating May “Safe Jobs for Youth Month” across Washington state. Further information on the initiative is available at www.TeenWorkers.Lni.wa.gov. The agency also offers presentations from injured young workers for students. Miller has made her services available in providing individual talks to employers and teachers.
In recent years, the number of injuries among young workers has grown, although the trend has decreased significantly over the past decade. In 2003, injuries totaled 1,135. In 2011, the figure reached its lowest point with 425 injuries before going back up over the next two years. Accidents include lacerations, strains and sprains, as well as more serious injuries like fractures and concussions.
“Employers are eager to give young workers a start in the world of work” Miller noted. “The result is we need to continue to help employers provide teens with tasks appropriate to their age.”
As a general rule, 14 and 15 year-old workers can perform light tasks like office work, cashiering and stocking shelves. Regulations for 16- and 17-year-olds are somewhat less restrictive and may include more physical tasks like cooking, landscaping, and some use of power machinery and construction equipment. Restrictions on the total number of weekly hours of work vary for all minors by age.
When safety equipment other than hard hats, eye protection or gloves is required, then a job is not considered appropriate for minors. All minors are prohibited from working with powered equipment such as meat slicers and forklifts, Miller noted.
In agriculture, restricted jobs differ for youth. The agency has specific information on its website at its Agricultural Jobs for Teens page.
Regardless of your age, if you have a workplace injury or occupational disease, the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of Emery Reddy will take you through the L&I claim process and fight to get you the maximum benefits allowed under Washington law. Many workers also turn to us for experienced legal representation following a denied L&I claim. Finally, we have years of experience defending the rights of those with a third party injury. Call our L&I Attorneys today for a free consultation.