June 13, 2005
Whether they work all
year, or just in the summer, many teens are spending more hours
trying to earn some money now that school is out.
of students and parents suggest that 70% to 80% of teens have
worked for pay at some time during their high school years. Between
1996 and 1998, a monthly average of 2.9 million workers aged 15
to 17 worked during school months, and 4.0 million worked during
summer months. Workers aged 15 to 17 spend the most work hours
in food preparation and service jobs, stock handler or laborer
jobs, administrative support jobs, and farming, forestry, or fishing
Teens find work in many
industries, doing a wide variety of jobs. Different jobs bring
different risks, and all jobs require some level of care and common
"'The updated NIOSH
[The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] bulletin
is a reminder that serious and often fatal injuries among working
teens are all too prevalent, and that all of us have vital roles
in preventing those risks.' The new Alert contains several recent
case studies that illustrate the range of industries and occupations
in which teen workers have suffered occupational injuries, including
incidents in which 1) a 17-year-old laborer was crushed when the
forklift he was operating overturned, 2) a 16-year-old restaurant
cashier was fatally shot in the head during a robbery attempt,
3) a 15-year-old was suffocated in a corn bin while working on
his family's farm, and 4) a 17-year-old volunteer junior fire
fighter died in a traffic crash while responding to a call...."
are not isolated incidents.
"The National Institute
for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requests assistance
in preventing deaths, injuries, and illnesses among young workers.
An average of 67 workers under age 18 died from work-related injuries
each year during 1992ˆ2000. In 1998, an estimated 77,000 required
treatment in hospital emergency rooms. ..."
Without a high school
education, much less a college degree, the opportunities available
to many teens seeking employment are limited.
with jobs are employed in retail operations, including fast-food
restaurants, grocery stores, and other stores. Service industries,
including nursing homes, swimming pools, amusement parks, and
moving companies, account for another large portion of teen labor.
And a smaller number of teens who work are employed in the agricultural
industry. There are also entrepreneurial activities your teen
might try, such as babysitting, delivering newspapers, and dog
walking. ... Of course, almost all jobs offer hidden safety hazards
While teens are also
less likely than some more experienced workers to know what is
expected of them and what their rights are, they are also more
likely to have stricter laws governing what they can and cannot
do as part of a job.
the department of labor in your state. Among the things you'll
find out from the labor department are: the number of hours teens
can work, the hours of the day when they can work, and the types
of jobs they shouldn't do. For example, in some states teens under
age 16 may not be allowed to operate deli slicers or fryers in
restaurants. And some teens under age 18 may not be allowed to
work past 10:00 PM on school nights."
Different ages bring
different rules and regulations. Some federal laws apply, and
some very state to state.
"If you're younger
than 18, you are not allowed to:
* Drive a motor vehicle as a regular part of the job or operate
a forklift at any time
* Operate many types of powered equipment, such as a box crusher,
meat slicer or circular saw
* Work in wrecking, demolition,
excavation or roofing
* Work in mining, logging or a sawmill
* Work in meat-packing or slaughtering
* Work where there is exposure to radiation
* Work where explosives are manufactured or stored.
"Also, if you're
14 or 15, you may not do the following activities:
* Bake or cook on the job (except at a serving counter)
* Operate power-driven machinery (except certain types that pose
little hazard, such as those used in offices)
* Work on a ladder or scaffold
* Work in warehouses
* Work in construction, building or manufacturing
* Load or unload a truck, railroad car or conveyor belt
"If you're younger
than 14, there are even stricter laws to protect your health and
No matter how old you
"By law, your employer must provide a safe and healthful
workplace that is free of hazards
and sexual harassment. Your employer should also provide safety
and health training. You have the right to refuse to work if the
job is immediately dangerous to your life or health. If you feel
unsafe or think your rights have been violated, you can file a
complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor. Remember, it's illegal
for your employer to fire you or punish you for reporting a workplace
Why are the laws as strict
as they are? Why do they make such a big deal about it? Teens
are just trying to earn money like everyone else, why make it
more difficult to them to work?
"* Young workers
may not be trained to perform assigned tasks safely.
* Young workers may be assigned
to perform incidental tasks for which they have no training or
experience, or they may take it upon themselves to perform these
tasks. * Young workers may not be adequately supervised.
* Young workers lack the experience and maturity needed to recognize
and deal with injury hazards. More specifically, they may not
yet have a sufficient understanding of work processes to recognize
* Young workers may not have the training or experience to handle
emergencies or injuries.
* Young workers, their employers, and parents may disregard or
be unaware of child labor laws that specify the jobs and the hours
that young workers may not work."
What could possibly go
"* 18-year-old Sylvia
caught her hand in an electric cabbage shredder at a fast food
restaurant. Her hand is permanently disfigured and she'll never
have full use of it again.
* 17-year-old Joe lost his life while working as a construction
helper. An electric shock killed him when he climbed a metal ladder
to hand an electric drill to another worker.
*16-year-old Donna was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at a sandwich
shop. She was working alone after 11 p.m.
"Why do injuries
like these occur? Teens are often injured on the job due to unsafe
equipment, stressful conditions, and speed-up. Also teens may
not receive adequate safety training and supervision. As a teen,
you are much more likely to be injured when working on jobs that
you are not allowed to do by law."
"As a teen, you
are much more likely to be injured when working on jobs that you
are not allowed to do by law."
The laws are there to
help keep teens safe, but laws can only do so much. What can teens
"To work safely
you should keep in mind the following:
* Follow all safety rules.
* Use safety equipment and wear
protective clothing when needed.
* Keep work areas clean and neat.
* Know what to do in an emergency.
* Report any health and safety hazards to your supervisor."
Questions of the Week:
What do teens need to know before they look for jobs? What information
should teens research before beginning a new job? How can teens
keep themselves safe while working? What should teens do if they
suspect a dangerous situation at their place of employment? What
should teens do if they feel proper safety precautions are not
being taken by their employers, or those they work with? How can
teens find out what their rights and responsibilities are in any
given job? How could the answers to these questions be different
if adults were involved, as opposed to teens?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum