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June 15, 1999

Teens should find sun and safe work this summer

TUMWATER - With the ring of the last school bell, thousands of Washington teens will pour from their classrooms and into summer jobs. As the summer hiring season begins, the Department of Labor & Industries is urging employers to do everything possible to ensure a safe work environment for kids with summer jobs.

According to agency research, teens are two to three times more likely to be hurt on the job than adults.

"For teens, having a summer job is an exciting and beneficial experience. We want to make sure it's also a safe experience," Director Gary Moore said. "Keeping teen workers safe means parents must play an active role - they must talk to their children about the work they're doing and the potential hazards. And we urge employers to be sure the work they are hiring teens to do is appropriate for their age level."

Many hazardous duties are prohibited under state law for teens under 18, but even so, nearly 4,000 injury and illness claims from adolescents are filed with L&I each year, including such injuries as serious lacerations, burns, fractures and back injuries.

Here are some of the rules employers and parents should be aware of for non-agricultural workers:

  • In general, 14- and 15-year-olds can be employed to perform only such light tasks as sweeping, cashiering and office work. And all of it must be at ground level.
  • Work assignments for teens 16 and older can be less restrictive, like cooking, heavier cleaning or landscape maintenance. But they can't use power-driven tools or saws, or operate a vehicle. Neither are they allowed to work around heavy equipment or on a ladder taller than 10 feet.
  • Generally, if safety equipment other than a hard hat, eye protection or gloves is required to do the job, then it's not an appropriate job for minors.
  • Minors 14 and 15 can work up to 40 hours per week while school is not in session - 16-year-olds and above can work 48 hours. They can put in no more than six days per week, with limits on how early and late they can work.
  • A responsible adult must always be present.

Those who employ teens are required to obtain a minor work permit from L&I and parent authorization for the job assignments and hours the teen will be assigned.

More information about the rules for minor workers can be found in these L&I publications:

  • "Young Workers in Agriculture" (new)
  • "Teen Workers Have Two Jobs" (non-agricultural)

Both of these publications and many other helpful links can be found on a new "Help for Teen Workers" page on L&I's Internet web site.

"Employers should stress safety all the time with their teenage workers," said L&I Employment Standards program manager Greg Mowat. "They need to make sure teen workers are appropriately trained and supervised to prevent injuries. And of course employers need to make sure their workplaces are safe."

If you have questions, call your local Labor & Industries service center or the Department of Labor & Industries Employment Standards program at 360-902-5316.

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For media information, contact: 
L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5400 or publicaffairs@lni.wa.gov

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