Every summer, many young workers enter the workforce for the first time in their lives. While a person's first job can be exciting, or at least eye-opening, it can also be a source of danger. Young workers suffer from highly elevated rates of workplace accidents. The workplace injury rate for workers under 25 years of age is double that of older workers. They are the most likely to be injured and the most likely to die in fatal on-the-job accidents. Knowledge that many older workers may take for granted needs to be imparted to new workers to help them stay safe. The numbers make it clear that we are not doing enough to protect new workers when are first learning what it means to be employed.
According to the Department of Labor, another teen worker is injured every 9 minutes. The severity of these injuries varies greatly, but each represents a failure on the part of both the worker and the employer in taking proper precautions. In 2011, there were more than 100,000 such failures, including 331 incidents in which a young worker suffered a fatal injury.
Elevated injury rates are often associated with teenagers. A feeling of invulnerability and a serious lack of experience form a dangerous combination. Teens may be afraid to ask questions when they are unsure about an unfamiliar task. Young workers may not understand that a risk is even present.
Employers who take on young workers need to be vigilant in protecting their workforce. Even if the work is seasonal or temporary, they owe it to their young employees to see that the workplace is safe. Proper training and an understanding that young workers face unique risks in the workplace should be a part of every employer's approach.
Source: The National Law Review, "Safety Rights for Young Workers," 25 June 2013