How Teens Can Stay Safe At Work

By Linda McMaken | June 11, 2012 AAA

Summer is here and many teens are looking for a summer job. Most parents encourage their teens to work, not only for the paycheck, but for the many lessons having a summer job can teach. These lessons can include learning new responsibilities and the value of saving money. Parents encourage having a job and rarely give it more than a passing thought. However, there are some very real risks to teens working. According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor and OSHA, every year "70 teens in the U.S. die as a result of injuries at work. An additional 70,000 teens are hurt on the job and have to go to a hospital or emergency room."

Age-Appropriate Jobs
Employers are supposed to be aware of the jobs teens of certain ages are and are not allowed to perform. As a parent you should be aware of this as well. As a general rule any teen workers under the age of 18 are not allowed to:
- Operate motor vehicles
- Operate many large pieces of heavy equipment
- Be employed in mining, logging, sawmills or slaughtering
- Be employed where chemicals or explosives are manufactured

For Teens Aged 14 and 15 They Can't:
- Cook or bake, but can work at a service counter
- Operate any machinery
- Work on ladders or scaffolding
- Unload trucks, work on a conveyor belt or a railroad car

Each industry has its own standards for employing teens, and you can find additional information and a complete list of these occupations and standards at OSHA's website.

Hours Worked and Overtime
If your teen is under the age of 15, there are restrictions on the number of hours per week he or she can legally work both during the school year and during the summer. Sometimes these hours are not only regulated by national law, but there are state laws involved as well. Generally, if the teen is over the age of 18 and is working during summer hours, there are very few restrictions. These will be subject to change during the school year, by occupation and sometimes by state laws. Some states require a document known as a "work permit." This is a form issued by the state of residence that authorizes a minor to work. It is usually signed by a parent and a representative from the teen's school. However, this can vary by state, and not all states require one. If your teen is required to have a work permit, you can obtain the form from the prospective employer.

Parent Tips
The single most important tip for a parent is to go with your teen to his or her job. While this may embarrass your teen, it is by far the best way to determine if you want your child to work for the employer. Even after he or she is working, make a point to drop in unannounced to check on the work environment. Very often, if there is a problem at work, teens won't tell their parents. No employer should ever object to the occasional visit from a parent. If the employer objects, reconsider letting your child work there. Remind your teen that if something isn't right at work, he or she can tell you. Let him or her know he or she can report any violations to authorities and that teens have the right to quit any job they feel is unsafe. You can also read additional tips and find parent resources on OSHA's website.

Tips for Working Teens
Working a first job is fun and scary at the same time. Teens will have to learn many things on any new job. However, here are a few tips to tell your teen before he or she leaves for that first day on the job:
- Listen to instructions
- If you don't understand, ask questions - employers expect you do to this
- Follow all safety rules
- Wear required clothing (uniform, safety shoes, safety goggles)
- Report any hazards to a supervisor
- If you don't know how to use equipment, ask to be trained.

Teen Workers Have Rights
If your teen has an issue with safety, harassment, on-the-job-bullying or sexual harassment, he or she has the right to file charges. Anytime a teen feels he or she is being dealt with unfairly, or is asked to perform a job that is dangerous, he or she should first report the incident to a supervisor, then tell parents, then file a complaint with OSHA. You can file a complaint online, call OSHA at 1-800-321-6742, or TTY 1-877-889-5627.

The Bottom Line
A summer job should be fun. It should be a learning experience that will help your teen find a career that or she will love. Most summer jobs provide extra money to buy the fun things teens want, and most are very safety conscious. There are those employers and occupations that are not always well run, or do not put safety first. Be aware of these and you can keep your teen safe and happy at his or her summer job.

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