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May 27, 2003

Protect teens this summer by making job safety a workplace priority

TUMWATER - As the summer hiring season begins, the Department of Labor & Industries urges employers to help protect kids by making job safety a priority.

Teens are twice as likely to suffer a workplace injury as adults, according to L&I research. Inappropriate supervision, poor training and dangerous equipment are often factors in those injuries.

"Young people often begin summer jobs with a sense of excitement and a desire to prove themselves, but with little knowledge of critical safety practices," said L&I Director Paul Trause. "We must work together to make sure our children are safe as they learn about the world of work."

Teens are most likely to suffer injuries such as cuts, sprains and burns as they work in restaurants, grocery and department stores, health-care facilities, amusement parks, recreation facilities and in agriculture. However, they are also at risk of fractures, concussions, amputations and even fatal injuries.

Efforts to curb teen-worker injuries in recent years by businesses, labor unions, schools, governmental agencies and other organizations have paid off. In Washington state, reported injuries for minors dropped nearly a third during the past decade. From 1992 to 2002, L&I accepted about 27,000 claims for work-related injuries to minors, in both agricultural and non-agricultural jobs. Seven teens died from work-related injuries during that time.

Employers who want to hire teens need a minor work endorsement for their master business license and a parent authorization form for the teen's work hours and job assignments.

Here are some of the other rules for employers who hire teenage workers:

  • 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 involving cooking or baking duties.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Agricultural rules prohibit all minors from working with certain chemicals, pesticides and explosives, and in other hazardous jobs. Additional restrictions, including operating equipment, apply to minors under age 16.

More resources, including information on a jointly sponsored program aimed
at preventing teen injuries in quick-service restaurants, can be found at
L&I's teen worker web site: www.LNI.wa.gov/scs/workstandards/teenworker.htm.


Radio broadcast version:

With the summer job season upon us, the Department of Labor & Industries reminds employers to help keep kids safe by making workplace safety a priority.

L&I researchers say teens are twice as likely to suffer a workplace injury
as adults. Cuts, sprains and burns are among the leading injuries they
suffer, though fractures, concussions, amputations and, occasionally, even fatalities can occur.

L&I says that efforts to curb teen-worker injuries have paid off. In
Washington, reported injuries for minors dropped nearly a third during the past decade.

To learn about the special rules for teenage workers, go to:


Media note: An occupational health specialist at L&I who is an expert on
teens in the workplace is available for interviews. If interested, contact
Lisa Pemberton, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-5405 or PEML235@LNI.wa.gov.

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