Summertime Jobs for Teens can be Dangerous
July 18, 2017
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that over 19 million workers under the age of 24-years-old begin to work each summer. This means that they account for almost 15% of the overall workforce. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is warning Americans that teens are at a much greater risk for workplace injuries because of lackluster management supervision, inadequate safety training and exposure to unsafe equipment.
According to OSHA, teens are often employed in positions that can expose them to slippery floors, heavy lifting, chemical exposure, violent crime, biocontamination on discarded items, repetitive hand motions, heat and pesticide exposure as well as machinery injuries. These hazards span across various fields, including agriculture, outdoor work, janitorial work, food service, retail, grocery stores and offices.
Some suggest that so many teens and young workers suffer on-the-job injuries because employers take young workers less seriously, and offer fewer training measures Employers should always supervise teens on the job, like they do all other employees, as a way of promoting workplace safety. Experts agree that training and supervision are essential to decreasing the number of young workers injured on the job.
OSHA found that there are other 2 million workers under 20-years-old who are employed in the agricultural industry and exposed to work-specific hazards such as heavy machinery. For teens specifically, the hospitality and leisure industry employs the largest number, with the retail industry following closely behind. Data shows that in 2015 alone, 403 workers under 24-years-old died in fatal work-related incidents. 24 of the fatalities were workers who were under 18-years-old.
Even more startling is that during a ten-year span between 1998 and 2007, there were nearly 800,000 nonfatal injuries to young workers that required medical attention. NIOSH concludes that young workers are two times more likely to have to go to emergency medical departments for occupational injuries than workers who are over 25.
The most common nonfatal injuries that young workers suffer are cuts, lacerations, sprains, strains and falls. Some findings reflect that young male workers have a higher rate of injury than female workers, and that 17 and 16-year-olds account for the majority of teenage injuries. After conducting a report on teenage injuries, the state of Massachusetts concluded that open wounds and sprain injuries accounted for almost one-third of all lost wage claims that were filed.
Experts say that 14 and 15-year-old workers should be doing lighter workplace tasks, such as routine administrative work, stocking and cashiering. If a worker is 16 or 17-years-old, they recommend allowing them to do supervised yet limited work in manufacturing or landscaping. In other words, younger workers should not be doing heavy labor or dangerous tasks with unsafe machinery.
Certain states have particular regulations in place that aim to protect young workers. For example, some states disallow all workers under the age of 18-years-old to work higher than ten feet off the ground, with heavy machinery or alone at night. Other regulations include not allowing 16-year-olds to drive as a work-related duties and only allowing 17-year-olds to drive in limited capacities. Some states have laws that provide a worker with the right to refuse any work assignment that they feel is unsafe. Many states also have regulations surrounding a permissible amount of work hours for teenagers, to ensure that they are not overworked.
Until all states create safety regulations for teenagers in the workforce, there are ways we can try to help keep teens safer while they are at work. Parents and caregivers can help by getting involved and asking potential employers about jobs that are available. Asking about work hours, employee training initiatives as well as what the overall job requirements are a good way to determine whether a job is a good fit for a teenage worker. Although it is the legal responsibility of an employer to ensure that workers are trained, supervised and safe, too many teenagers are getting injured or losing their lives when they go to work, with chances for injury growing even higher in the summer months.
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If you or a loved one has been injured in the workplace, our work injury lawyers in Philadelphia are happy to answer your questions and review your case for free. With offices located in Bethlehem, Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Reading. Galfand Berger serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.