Industries with higher worker turnover, such as retail or food service, may have many teenage workers, who could be inexperienced on the job and may not recognize health and safety hazards as quickly as seasoned staff. This makes the young workers more prone to occupational injuries and illnesses.
Each year, an average 70 teenagers are killed on the job and 200,000 experience work-related injuries, “Safety and Health Magazine” reported, citing data from the National Young Worker Safety Resource Center. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a higher number of fatal accidents occur among younger workers.
Because of this, employers may want to evaluate the work-related risks youth may encounter and how they can guard against these hazards to enhance young worker safety.
Here are five factors that may influence young worker safety:
- Low work experience levels – Without the amount of experience veteran staff have, younger workers may not be able to identify the severity of hazards that could contribute to the higher rate of occupational injuries, including tripping hazards.
- Inadequate training – Since young workers often work seasonal jobs, they may not receive enough training to help them determine what hazards to avoid and how to properly use potentially dangerous equipment. For example, OSHA said youth in food services may not be trained in how to effectively use hot cooking equipment or sharp objects.
- Protective equipment does not fit – Another major problem that may affect teenage worker safety is ill-fitting personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers may carry PPE that is only made for grown men, Safety and Health Magazine reported. When PPE, such as gloves or face masks, do not fit, workers may be exposed to occupational hazards that may lead to illnesses, such as from exposure to chemicals or bloodborne pathogens.
- Lack of supervision – When teenage staff do not have proper supervision, they may be at a higher risk for fatalities from occupational hazards, especially when it comes to working in enclosed spaces. For that reason, OSHA recommends another worker stay close to any enclosed space and remain in constant contact with any staff who are inside in case of an emergency.
- Equipment not optimized for safety – Young workers who have not been trained to identify hazards or lack work experience may not be able to safely operate potentially dangerous equipment for food processing or other machinery. Employers may want to make sure their equipment is secured using lockout/tag-out procedures and supply machines with guards. Training young workers to read warning labels placed on or near hazardous machinery is crucial to improve safety and compliance with federal safety regulations.
When trying to engage young workers during training sessions, employers may want to make sure they encourage the youth to communicate their concerns about the job or related hazards, according to Safety and Health Magazine.
Teenagers may not feel confident asking questions since it may be their first time working with adults. Employers may want to promote open and honest discussions about safety at work and make sure workers feel comfortable about pointing out occupational hazards to their supervisors.
CopperPoint provides safety tips and more in its SafetyResources library found on its website, www.copperpoint.com. By going online, you can download a free safety plan template, order safety training cards or posters, download informational brochures regarding workers’ compensation insurance and watch work safety videos. CopperPoint has also launched www.pinpointnews.net, a blog written by subject matter experts designed to answer labor law, workplace safety, human resources and workers’ compensation questions that plague small business employers.