On Monday morning at the AIHce, Brendan Moriarty, CIH, CSP, Chubb Insurance, discussed in a workshop the significant potential for an injury to a younger worker. According to NIOSH, an estimated 200,000 young workers are injured on the job in the U.S. every year. About 70,000 are injured seriously enough to go to the emergency room. Moriarty covered the typical hazards associated with summer jobs such as construction, painting and landscaping and what adolescents and parents should expect from the employer in terms of safety and health.

Young workers get injured or sick on the job for many reasons, including:

  • Unsafe equipment
  • Inadequate safety training
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youth under 18
  • Pressure to work faster
  • Stressful conditions

Employer responsibilities for young workers

  • Understand and comply with the relevant federal and state child labor laws. For example, these laws prohibit youth from working certain hours and from performing dangerous/hazardous work.
  • 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 and 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 questions and help the new young worker learn the ropes of a new job.
  • Encourage young workers to ask questions about tasks or procedures that are unclear or not understood. Tell them whom to ask.
  • Remember that young workers are not just “little adults.” You must be mindful of the unique aspects of communicating with young workers.
  • Ensure that equipment operated by young workers is both legal and safe for them to use. Employers should label equipment that young workers are not allowed to operate.
  • Tell young workers what to do if they get hurt on the job.