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June 12, 2001

Safety should be a priority as teens begin summer jobs

TUMWATER - As thousands of Washington teens begin summer jobs, the Department of Labor & Industries reminds teens, parents and employers that safety should be a top priority.

Even though many hazardous duties are prohibited under state law for teens under 18, nearly 4,000 injury or illness claims from adolescents are filed with L&I each year. Common injuries include lacerations, burns and fractures. Agency research shows that teens are two to three times more likely to be hurt on the job than adults.

"A summer job often is a teen's first real experience in the work world, and rightfully it's an exciting time," said Patrick Woods, L&I assistant director for Specialty Compliance Services. "We all should do our part to make sure that experience is not marred by a workplace accident."

Those who employ teens are required to obtain a minor work permit from L&I, as well as parent authorization for the job assignments and hours the teen will be working. Here are some of the rules employers and parents should be aware of:

  • In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may be employed to perform lighter tasks such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves, bagging and carrying groceries, janitorial and grounds maintenance (but not operating power mowers or cutters), and food service (but not involving cooking or baking).
  • Work assignments for teens 16 and older 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 amusement-park work.
  • 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 age 14 and 15 can work up to 40 hours per week while school is not in session; 16 years and above can work 48 hours.

For agricultural workers, there are rules that prohibit minors from working with certain chemicals and pesticides and restrict minors under 16 from hazardous farm work and operating equipment. 

Teen-safety resources are available on the Internet at /scs/workstandards/teenworker.htm. Information also is available by calling 360-902-5316.

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