Some jobs are hazardous for young workers. Washington State and federal laws prohibit many jobs and duties for minor workers. Prohibited duties vary depending on the worker’s age and whether the job is agricultural or non-agricultural.
Visit Safety & Health for more information on ways to keep teens safe in the workplace.
Youth apprentices and student learners within approved vocational or instructional programs can be granted limited exemptions from some of these prohibitions.
All Youth Under 18 Years Old
The following jobs and duties are prohibited for minors working in any industry:
- Slaughtering, meat processing, rendering, and packing
- Any work including operation, repair, oiling, cleaning, adjusting, or setting up of:
- Power-driven woodworking machines
- Circular, band, or chain saws
- Power-driven metal forming, punching, and shearing machines, including guillotine shears
- Wrecking, demolition, and excavation
- Handling or exposure to highly toxic, carcinogenic, corrosive, and poisonous chemicals, especially agricultural chemicals of Category I or II toxicity. (Does not include handling sealed containers in retail situations)
- Handling, use, or manufacture of explosives or blasting agents.
- Working where a strike, labor dispute, or lockout exists
See WAC 296-125-030 (non-agricultural) and WAC 296-131-125 (agricultural) for a full list of prohibited duties.
- Working higher than 10 feet off the ground or floor level
- Most driving of motor vehicles on public roads to make deliveries, such as pizza delivery or other time-sensitive deliveries.
- All driving on public roadways is prohibited for those 16 and under
- Operating forklifts or other heavy equipment such as earthmovers, tractors, backhoes, etc.
- Loading, operating, or unloading of paper/cardboard balers or compactors
- Jobs where respiratory protection or hearing protection is required
Common prohibited duties for restaurants, delis, grocery stores, and food processing
- Operating powered meat/food slicers and grinders
- Using powered bakery equipment such as a Hobart mixer
- Working in freezers and meat coolers in processing facilities
- Slaughtering, meat packing, or food processing
- Working alone past 8 p.m. without adult supervision on the premises (this restriction only applies to service occupations, e.g., retail and restaurant industries)
Common prohibited duties in construction-related activities
- Working on or around a roof
- Wrecking, demolition, trenching, or excavating
- Operating or riding cargo elevators, manlifts, hoists, and cranes (automatic passenger elevators are okay)
- Flagging or helping on public roadway
- Operating boilers or working in engine rooms
- Operating power-driven woodworking machines
- Operating metal-forming, punching, and shearing machines
- Operating powered circular and band saws
- Handling or using explosives
Other prohibited job duties
- Firefighting and fire suppression
- Logging and sawmill work
- Selling items to motorists on a public roadway
- Manufacturing of brick, tile, and similar products
- Work in saunas, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, or adult-oriented businesses
- Nurses' aide or nurses' assistant, unless the minor is enrolled in or has completed a state-certified nursing program
- Jobs with possible exposure to radioactive and hazardous substances
- Jobs with possible exposure to bodily fluids or other infections agents
See WAC 296-125-030 for a full list of prohibited duties for minors in non-agricultural jobs.
Additional Prohibited Duties for Minors Under 16
- Driving an automobile
- House-to-house sales
- Cooking and baking
- Operating or cleaning meat slicers
- Operating food processors
- Any power-driven machinery
- Processing operations
- Public messenger
- Amusement parks
- Loading or unloading trucks
- Transportation, warehouse, storage and work around conveyors
- Ladders and scaffolds, including window washing
- Maintenance and repair in gas stations
For more details, see:
See WAC 296-125-033 for all additional restrictions for workers under 16 in non-agricultural jobs.
All minors under 18 are prohibited from doing the following work in agricultural jobs
- Handling, mixing, loading or applying dangerous pesticides.
- Transporting, transferring or applying anhydrous ammonia.
- Harvesting crops before the pre-harvest interval expires or within 14 days of applying chemicals, if no pre-harvest interval exists. (The pre-harvest interval is the amount of time that must pass between applying the last pesticide and harvesting the crop.)
- Work involving slaughtering and meat processing.
- Operating power saws, power-driven woodworking and metal-forming machines, and punching or shearing machines.
- Handling or using blasting agents, such as dynamite or blasting caps.
- Work involving wrecking, roofing, demolition and excavation.
Additional Restrictions for 14 and 15-Year-Old Minors Working in Agricultural Jobs
- Operating a tractor over 20 horsepower
- Connecting or disconnecting attachments from such a tractor.
- Driving a bus, truck or automobile with passengers.
- Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height over 20 feet.
- Working in a farmyard, pen or stall occupied by a bull, boar or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes.
- Working inside a fruit or grain storage area designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere, or working in a manure pit.
- Operating or helping to operate machines such as corn pickers, hay balers and mowers and grain combines.
- Performing manufacturing, meatpacking or food-processing work.
- Working in transportation, warehouse and storage or construction.
- Working in or around engine or boiler rooms.
Related Rules and Publications
- Prohibited and hazardous employment for all minors (WAC 296-125-030)
- Additional restrictions for those under 16 (WAC 296-125-033)
- Non-agricultural Employment of Minors (WAC 296-125)
- Agricultural Employment Standards (WAC 296-131)
- Employing teens under 18 in food service? - L&I's fact sheet of permitted and prohibited work activities for youth ages 14 to 17 in food service
- Restaurant Employee Safety Orientation Checklist
- Safety Steps for Supervisors and Employees in Restaurants
- Youth in Construction