A report on workers comp claims by Colorado teens sheds some light on what are common workplace injuries for young workers across the U.S.

Pinnacol Assurance, which provides workers’ compensation protection to 57,000 Colorado employers, analyzed its claims history for workers under 20. The company found that more than 380 Colorado teens were injured or became ill last year because of their summer jobs.

The most common injury causes for Colorado workers under 20 are:

  1. Cuts and burns
  2. Being struck or caught  
  3. Lifting  
  4. Slips and falls
  5. Vehicle

One startling statistic: 54% of workplace injuries happened to teens in their first two or three months of employment, which is an incidence rate two to three times higher than that for average workers in Colorado. Pinnacol Safety Services Director Jim McMillen thinks this is because teens are inexperienced and typically perform jobs that are not thought of as requiring a lot of training (scooping ice cream, washing dishes or bagging groceries).

However, as with any employee, thorough onboarding and training for all new hires is an essential piece of an effective safety program to prevent injuries at work.

“Teens don’t yet have years of experience in the workforce and may not be able to identify and avoid hazards that older workers would. It is incumbent upon their employers to address this with training, mentoring and close observation,” said McMillen.

According to OSHA, workers under 25 years of age are twice as likely as older workers to end up in the emergency room. That makes sense to McMillen, who noted the claims data for teens showed mostly acute injuries rather than repetitive-type injuries that develop slowly over time.

Teenagers most commonly received injuries to their:

  1. Finger(s)
  2. Hand(s)
  3. Foot or feet
  4. Ankle(s)  
  5. Skull

McMillen stressed that teens should look for jobs that prioritize their safety and shouldn’t feel embarrassed asking about it. “Safety should absolutely play a part in job selection, and once they are on the job, they should know that they have rights and can refuse tasks that seem unsafe or for which they haven’t been properly trained. And employers should value employees who take their personal and co-workers’ safety seriously.” McMillen said teens should look specifically for companies that:

  1. Encourage questions and open communication. As much as possible, teens should feel comfortable asking questions about the job and how to perform duties safely. 
  2. Feature thorough training and onboarding that provide employees with the skills and knowledge to identify hazards.  
  3. During the interview process, discuss their safety program and how that program helps remove or reduce job hazards. 
  4. Enforce the use of personal protective equipment, like safety glasses, that the job duties require.
  5. Provide plenty of support (rest/hydration breaks, mandatory use of safety equipment) to help teens stay safe.
  6. Prepare for emergency situations so teens know what to do in case of a fire, workplace violence and other dangerous, unexpected situations.

Pinnacol Assurance offers free and low-cost training programs for employers to create safe working environments for their employees.

Check out Pinnacol's infographic about summer job safety for teens.