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Winning entry in Massachusetts annual poster contest that promotes workplace safety for teens. Credit: Sixteen-year-old Shari Coté of Taunton, MA.
Summer Jobs Carry Risks for Teens
"Summer jobs are great for our teenagers," says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni, "but as parents, we need to pay attention. Because our teens are often first-time or inexperienced employees, they need our support and guidance as they confront whatever risks their job may present."
Before a teen starts working, parents should make time to sit together and discuss what it means to work, including the job's possible dangers. In particular, teens should be told to alert parents and seek advice if the work situation seems difficult or unsafe or if the employer is unhelpful or dismissive. Employers have a duty to provide safety training (in a language the teen understands), and teens should question their employers if they are unsure how to do a task safely.
"A reluctance to ask questions can be an issue for some teens, who are taught to respect authorities and follow directions and who want to prove they can do a good job," says Sabitoni."But responsible employers want the job done well and without injuries so there is no good reason to hold back questions. Of course, the employer is also required to provide necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) at no expense to his or her teen workers."
OSHA maintains the Young Workers, You Have Rights! webpage to help teens understand workplace situations and the pressures that can increase their risk of injuries. Typical hazards are identified. The rights of workers and the responsibilities of employers are listed.
Landscaping and other outdoor jobs – common summer employment for teens – impose solar exposure and heat stress risks with which many teens may be unfamiliar. OSHA covers these risks in a page devoted to teens.
Massachusetts is one state that targets services to teen employees. It sponsors an annual poster contest to spread awareness. Other state resources are listed on the OSHA site.