As Teens Prepare for Summer Jobs, American Society of Safety Engineers Urge Them to Do Their Safety Homework
Des Plaines, IL (April 21, 2008) — Last year more than 5700 people died and millions more suffered injuries and illnesses from on-the-job accidents, including thousands of teen workers. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and its 32,000+ occupational safety, health and environmental professional members urge teens and their parents to be aware of workplace safety prevention measures before they go to work this summer, whether for a part-time job or their first full-time position.
“Teens don’t often think of safety when they step into their first job, but they should. We’re offering teens, parents and employers the resources they need to help them stay safe at work,” ASSE member Cindy Lewis, co-chair of the annual Houston YouthRules! Rally, Job and Career Fair, said. “We work to educate this audience almost daily through city events such as the April 19 YouthRules! rally in Houston and other cities and by providing free resources such as our free brochures, safety tips for teens handout, the teen safety web page, the safety suitcase for young children and the annual ASSE safety-on-the-job poster contest for those aged 5-14. But more needs to be done.”
To help prepare millions of young workers entering the workforce in the next few months, ASSE has resources available at http://www.asse.org/newsroom.
Approximately 80 percent of U.S. teens work annually at some time during their high school years, many during the summer. While they earn extra money and gain valuable work experience, the risk of serious injury or even a fatal injury is present. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2004 alone more than 38,000 teen workers were injured on the job, and 134 were fatally injured. Workers aged 15 to 17 spend most of their work hours in food preparation and service jobs, handling stock or in labor jobs, farming, forestry or in fishing. Common injuries sustained among teens include sprains, strains, contusions, lacerations, and fractures. Some injuries can affect a teen for their lifetime.
There are many workplace risks and laws young workers should know. For instance, the most common job-related injury for first-time workers under 18 is muscle sprain or strain; trips and falls, eye strain, and excessive noise are just some of the hazards teens face at work; by law, an employer must provide protective clothing and equipment necessary for each job, payment for medical expenses if a worker is injured at work; on-the-job safety training; and, that on a school day, a 15-year-old is only permitted to work up to three hours a day. Sixteen year-olds are limited to the type of work they can do. For instance, out of these jobs — operating a meat slicing machine at a deli counter, driving a forklift at a warehouse, waiting tables at a restaurant, or performing demolition work at a construction site — a 16 year-old is legally only allowed to work waiting tables.
“Teens and their parents should be aware that newly hired teens miss work most often because they are suffering from on-the-job muscle sprains, strains, or tears; that fatigue from trying to balance work and school may contribute to injuries among young workers; that nearly 70 percent of 14- to 16-year-olds injured on the job miss work, school, and other activities for at least a day,” Lewis said. “A quarter of those injured teens are sidelined for more than a week. About a third of fatal injuries to young workers occur in family businesses, such as on a farm, according to federal officials.”
Teens are not allowed to work in mining, logging, meatpacking, roofing, excavation or demolition, according to labor laws. They cannot drive a car or forklift or work with saws, explosives, radioactive materials, or most machines. The U.S. Department of Labor has established two laws to protect the safety and health of teens — the Fair Labor Standards Act restricts the types of jobs teens under 18 can hold and the hours they can work. The 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide safe and healthful work environments for all workers. Employers must comply with occupational safety and health standards.
It is important to ask safety questions before starting a job such as: What are the physical demands of my job? What are my hours? Will I be working alone or with others? What kind of safety gear will I need to wear? What workplace hazards should I be aware of (noise, chemicals, etc.)? What safety training will I receive and when will I receive it? Where are the first-aid supplies and fire extinguishers kept? Do you have a worker safety policy and an emergency plan? Is there an occupational safety and health professional on staff?
For a free copy of the ASSE “Important Workplace Safety Guide for Young Workers” and other youth workplace safety tips contact ASSE customer service at 847-699-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org or download an electronic copy of the brochure at www.asse.org/newsroom/brochures.php. Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information check ASSE’s website at www.asse.org.