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June 6, 2007

Make safety a priority when hiring teens for summer jobs

TUMWATER — As the summer hiring season nears, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) reminds teens, parents and employers that workplace safety should be a top priority as teens start summer jobs.

“Summertime jobs for teens shouldn’t result in summertime injuries,” said L&I Director Judy Schurke. “Working together, we must do all that we can to protect our children and make sure that they, like their parents, come home whole at the end of the day.”

Teens under 18 are injured on the job at a higher rate than adults, according to state and national data. Nearly 50 percent of injuries to teens occur during the first six months on the job. Creating safe workplaces for teens includes providing adequate training, following laws that prohibit teens from working with dangerous equipment and, in general, giving them extra supervision and lots of repetition, particularly when they’re new to the job.

“Some industries, such as agriculture and fast food, have a long tradition of providing great opportunities for young people,” Schurke said. “But teens need leadership and mentoring, and I’m pleased that our agency has practical tools and resources that teens, employers, parents and teachers can use to create safer workplaces.”

Those resources, as well as required forms and information about prohibited duties and hours of work, can be found at www.TeenWorkers.LNI.wa.gov.

Schurke credited efforts by businesses, labor unions, schools, governmental agencies and other organizations for helping reduce teen-worker injuries almost 50 percent in the past decade in Washington.

Employers who hire teens are required to obtain a minor work endorsement for their master business license, as well as a parent authorization form for the job assignments and hours the teen will be working. Here are some of the rules when hiring teens:

  • 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • All minors are prohibited from working with certain chemicals, pesticides and explosives.
  • In agricultural jobs, minors may not work with certain chemicals, pesticides and explosives and in other hazardous jobs. Additional restrictions, including operating equipment, apply to minors under age 16.

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Media note: An L&I occupational health specialist who is an expert on teens in the workplace is available for interviews. If interested, contact Elaine Fischer, L&I public affairs, 360-902-5413.

Broadcast version
As the summer hiring season begins, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries is urging employers to make job safety for teens a priority.

L&I Director Judy Schurke said summertime jobs for teens shouldn’t result in summertime injuries. She encouraged teens to be cautious rather than afraid and asked employers to provide leadership and mentoring to teen workers.

L&I has practical reference tools to help teens, employers, parents and teachers create safer workplaces. That, and more, can be found at online at TeenWorkers dot LNI dot wa dot gov.

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