Protecting young workers in retail jobs
By Donna Pfirman
June, which is National Safety Month, is an appropriate time to focus on young workers, as they head out of school and into the workforce. Many of them will find jobs in the retail industry, a leading employer of young workers in the United States.
In 2014, there were approximately 18.1 million workers younger than age 24 in the U.S. These workers represented 13% of the U.S. workforce. Young workers have high workplace injury rates, explained in part by the high frequency of hazards in their typical workplaces. In retail work settings, for instance, slippery floors and use of knives and energized equipment are common hazards. Inexperience and lack of safety training also increase injury risks for young workers. The youngest— those in middle and high schools—may have physical and psychosocial limitations that lead to higher injury rates.
In 2014, about 23,000 (1 of every 4) young retail workers were injured in a retail job. The rate of emergency department–treated workplace injuries was found to be about two times higher for young workers than for workers 25 years and older.
Miranda, who had just turned 16, was at her first job in a local grocery store. One evening she was to stock three departments. First, she had to open boxes with a box-cutting knife, and she felt pressure to get that done fast. Miranda ran the knife through a box, and the blade slid off the box and slashed her leg. It was bleeding. She was a good worker and did not want to get into trouble for hurting herself or not doing her work. Instead of telling her supervisor or anyone she was hurt, she went to the restroom to tend to her leg. She made a bandage to cover the cut and stop the bleeding. Then she continued working and finished her shift.
When Miranda got home from work, the makeshift bandage on her leg was soaked with blood. She was worried because the bleeding did not stop. She showed her mom and dad the cut, and they took her to the emergency room for medical treatment.