In recognition of May’s “Safe Jobs for Youth Month, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is reminding employers to provide safe workplaces for young workers, particularly as the summer hiring season nears.
On average, 79 young workers are injured every working day in Washington state — or about three every hour, according to L&I. Creating safe workplaces for teens includes providing adequate training, following laws that prohibit teens from operating dangerous equipment and, in general, giving them extra supervision and lots of repetition, particularly when they’re new to the job.
“Teens are eager to work and may not question a workplace situation that doesn’t seem right, so we must do all we can to create safe workplaces for them,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety & Health.
Some of the workplace rules that cover teen workers include:
- In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may perform lighter tasks such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves, bagging and carrying groceries, janitorial and grounds maintenance (without operating power mowers or cutters), and food service that does not involve cooking or baking duties. They are not permitted to work on a construction site.
- Work assignments for 16- and 17-year-olds can be less restrictive. Their jobs may include such things as cooking, baking, landscaping, window washing (no more than 10 feet off the ground), maintenance and repair, and certain jobs in construction.
- Fourteen- and 15-year-olds can work up to 40 hours a week while school is not in session; 16- and 17-year-olds can work up to 48 hours a week.
- 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, explosives, pesticides and most chemicals.
- In agricultural jobs, additional restrictions apply to minors under age 16.
- Except for minors who work on their family’s farm, child labor rules apply to those working for their family’s business.
Employers who hire teens must obtain a minor work endorsement on their master business license, as well as a parent authorization form for the job assignments and hours the teen will be working.
Silverstein noted that L&I is in the third year of a program to raise awareness among teens of the importance of workplace safety. The “Injured Young Worker Speakers Program” brings workers who were severely injured on the job as teenagers to high schools around the state. Tips can be found at www.TeenWorkers.Lni.wa.gov.
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