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Young Worker Safety
Young workers are especially vulnerable on the job due to their inexperience and lack of training. Employers may fail to provide adequate safety training and demand more of them than is reasonable, resulting in accidents that could have been prevented if the young workers took their time to focus on their tasks and received acceptable safety training. Just because a worker is under the age of 18 does not mean that he or she is not afforded the same rights and protection provided to adults and young workers have the ability to claim workers’ compensation even if they are found at fault for their injuries.
Workplace Hazards Faced by Young Workers
OSHA requires all employers to provide a safe work environment through workplace training and reasonable safety procedures. If they fail to provide the training and equipment necessary to keep workers safe, they can face civil and criminal legal action as a result. Some of the hazards young people may encounter on the job include the following.
- Violence— young workers often work for delivery services and as cashiers, where the handling of money makes them potential victims of robbery and theft.
- Sharp objects— the food industry employs millions of younger workers, providing them with an opportunity to gain valuable work experience. Kitchens expose them to equipment that may cause serious laceration, however.
- Slip and fall hazards— wet floors, cluster and objects that are out of place can cause trip, slip or fall accidents that have the potential for severe harm.
- Heavy lifting— many younger workers perform manual labor that requires them to lift heavy objects repeatedly. Lifting improperly or using the same motion repeatedly over time can cause strain to the muscles in the core— especially the lower back.
- Exposure to chemicals— many workplaces expose employees to chemicals and other hazardous materials that need to be handled with care. It is important that young workers are trained to know how to use these products safely and to know of any associated dangers.
- Electricity— construction and agricultural work can expose young workers to electrical hazards and it is important they are trained on how to identify and avoid them.
- Biohazards— many young people are employed as custodians. This can place them in the path of pathogens through exposure to blood, needles, fecal matter and other bodily fluids.
- Heavy machinery— industrial machinery poses a danger to anyone who operates it in an improper manner. Younger workers are more prone to make poor decisions due to inexperience than their older counterparts, however.
- Exposure to the elements— jobs that require workers to work outdoors can place them at risk due to sun exposure, inclement weather and other outdoor hazards.
- Repetitive use injuries— even clerical work can cause long term harm if the worker is performing the same motion repeatedly for many hours a day. Typists and hairstylists often develop carpal tunnel due to repeated wrist motions and those who perform manual labor may suffer strain over time to their bodies.
Young Workers Have Rights
In the event a younger worker is injured on the job, he or she has rights to receive benefits to provide for the cost of medical treatment and other incidental expenses. While minors may need to undergo a different process than adults, employers may not withhold benefits from any worker based on his or her age. To learn more about your child’s rights, it is important to consult an attorney who has experience working on cases involving workers under the age of 18.
For more information on young worker safety and rights, you can refer to the following resources.