Tips for parents, employers, and teens:
While work plays an important role in the development of teenagers, teens and parents should carefully think about prospective jobs that teens are considering and assess possible workplace dangers that those jobs might possess.
Tips for teen workers
NCL urges teens to say “no” to jobs that involve:
- Door-to-door sales, especially out of the youth’s neighborhood;
- Long-distance traveling away from parental supervision;
- Extensive driving or being driven;
- Driving forklifts, tractors, and other potentially dangerous vehicles;
- The use of dangerous machinery;
- The use of chemicals;
- Working in grain storage facilities; and
- Work on ladders or work that involves heights where there is a risk of falling.
Know the legal limits
To protect young workers like you, state and federal laws limit the hours you can work and the kinds of work you can do. For state and federal child labor laws, visit Youth Rules.
Play it safe
Always follow safety training. Working safely and carefully may slow you down, but ignoring safe work procedures is a fast track to injury. There are hazards in every workplace and recognizing and dealing with them correctly may save your life.
Ask for workplace training—like how to deal with irate customers or how to perform a new task or use a new machine. Tell your supervisor, parent, or other adult if you feel threatened, harassed, or endangered at work.
Make sure the job fits
If you can only work certain days or hours, if you don’t want to work alone, or if there are certain tasks you don’t want to perform, make sure your employer understands and agrees before you accept the job.
Don’t flirt with danger
Be aware of your environment at all times. It’s easy to get careless after a while when your tasks have become predictable and routine. But remember, you’re not indestructible. Injuries often occur when employees are careless or goofing off.
Trust your instincts
Following directions and having respect for supervisors are key to building a great work ethic. However, if someone asks you to do something that feels unsafe or makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many young workers are injured—or worse—doing work that their boss asked them to do.
One safety expert suggests that if a job requires safety equipment other than a hard hat, goggles, or gloves, it’s not appropriate for minors.
The CDC has advised NCL that whenever machinery is located in the workplace, youth workers need to exercise extra caution.
What can parents do to help?
We ask parents to be involved in their teen’s job hunting and decision making, helping them to select safe employment. An important first step in the process is for parents and teens to acquaint themselves with the laws that protect working teens. Read what a teen worker can and cannot do at www.youthrules.dol.gov. This U.S. Department of Labor site provides information for young workers in each of the fifty states.
Before the job search begins, make decisions with your teen about appropriate employment. Set limits on how many hours per week he or she may work. Make sure your child knows you are interested in his or her part-time job and are worried about their safety.
Check it out
Meet your teen’s supervisor, request a tour of the facilities, and inquire about the company’s safety record. Ask about safety training, duties, and equipment. Don’t assume the job is safe. Every workplace has hazards.
Talk, talk, talk—and listen, too
Ask questions about your teen’s job. Ask teachers to give you a heads-up if grades begin to slip. Frequently ask your teen what she or he did at work and discuss any problems or concerns.
Watch for signs
Is the job taking a toll on your teen emotionally or physically? If it is an afterschool job or a weekend job when school is in session, assess your child’s performance at school. If there’s a loss of interest in or energy for school or social activities, the job may be too demanding. Ample research suggests grades suffer and dropout rates increase when teens work more than 20 hours per week.
Ten questions for parents to ask their child or their child’s new employer:
- Will my son or daughter be asked to drive a vehicle?
- Will the job involve their being driven by others?
- Is the commute to the work site lengthy?
- Is there any machinery or tools that my child might be asked to use that may be dangerous?
- Will he or she receive safety training?
- How detailed is that training?
- Is there any risk of falling involved with the job?
- Will my child ever be on the job site alone?
- Have my child and I visited youthrules.dol.gov to review state and federal law to make sure that we know what restrictions apply to their employment?
- Is my child’s job impacting my son’s or daughter’s physical or emotional health or their education negatively?
Working teens must be empowered to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t feel safe doing that.”