Teens are gearing up to search for summer jobs and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is urging employers, parents and others to support safety during "Safe Jobs for Youth Month" in May.
A total of 477 youth ages 12-17 were injured in the workplace in 2013, making this year's observance more important than ever, said Mary E. Miller, occupational nurse consultant with L&I and a youth employment expert. Of the total, 156 were in the food and hospitality industries. The next largest total, 66, occurred in the retail trades. There were no fatalities.
"Teens are eager to work and may not question a workplace situation that doesn't seem right," Miller said. "We're trying to ensure youth perform safe and appropriate work and employers, parents and teachers can all help."
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a proclamation making May "Safe Jobs for Youth Month" across the state. More information is available at www.TeenWorkers.Lni.wa.gov. The agency also offers presentations from injured young workers for students. Miller can provide a separate talk for employers and teachers.
In recent years, the number of injuries has increased despite an overall decrease the past decade. Injuries in 2003 totaled 1,135. In 2011, injuries reached a low of 425 before increasing the next two years. Injuries range from lacerations, strains and sprains to more serious fractures and concussions, Miller said.
"Employers are eager to give young workers a start in the world of work" Miller noted. "The result is we need to continue to help employers provide teens with tasks appropriate to their age."
In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may perform lighter tasks, such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves. Work assignments for 16- and 17-year-olds can be less restrictive and can include cooking, landscaping, and some use of powered equipment and machinery. The limits on the hours of work for all minors vary by age.
Generally, if safety equipment other than a hard hat, eye protection or gloves is required, then it's not an appropriate job for minors. All minors are prohibited from working with powered equipment such as meat slicers and forklifts, Miller noted.
In agriculture jobs, restricted job duties differ for youth. The agency has specific information on its website at its Agricultural Jobs for Teens page.