Millions of teenagers are taking on their first summer jobs this year. It’s great for workplaces to have all these fresh faces and all that youthful energy and ideas. However, with the pluses come the minuses that result from teens’ lack of work experience. In one recent year, of 2.3 million U.S. teen workers between 15 and 17, thousands suffered on-the-job injuries that sent them to the hospital — and most of these injuries occurred within the first 12 months of employment (34 teens under the age of 18 died from work-related injuries).
Teenage workers face a variety of risk factors on the job. They lack on-the-job experience, including knowledge the physical, biological, chemical, and other hazards associated with the job. The widespread feeling of invincibility among teens might lead them to take unneeded risks. They might not understand their rights and responsibilities, as well as job tasks that are illegal for them. They’ll probably find it difficult to believe that an on-the-job injury might disable them for life. A desire to prove themselves can lead teens to do unsafe things. A reluctance to appear ignorant might keep them from asking safety-related questions. Finally, teenage workers might simply assume that their employer (you), like their parents, will protect them.
Help deal with these problems by providing safety training for your new teenage employees. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the National Institutes of Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration ( Oregon OSHA) have teamed up to provide training resources targeted to teens. Visit www.asse.org/teensafety for training presentations, quizzes, handouts, etc., including an online interactive game called the Zombie Project www.asse.org/zombieproject.
To train your teen employees, we’d recommend that you use these guidelines from Oregon OSHA and customize them to your workplace.
- Give teens clear instructions on the safety precautions to take for each task.
- Ask them to repeat your instructions and to ask questions whenever they don’t understand.
- Demonstrate — or have an older employee demonstrate — how to perform each task.
- Watch teens as they perform each task and correct mistakes until they get it right.
- Ask once more if they have any more questions.
- Keep checking to ensure that they’re continuing to perform their tasks correctly and safely.
If you’d like assistance in creating and implementing a teen worker safety program, please feel free to get in touch with our risk management professionals.