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 — 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?
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:
1) Will my son or daughter be asked to drive a vehicle?
2) Will the job involve their being driven by others?
3) Is the commute to the work site lengthy?
4) Is there any machinery or tools that my child might be asked to use that may be dangerous?
5) Will he or she receive safety training?
6) How detailed is that training?
7) Is there any risk of falling involved with the job?
8) Will my child ever be on the job site alone?
9) Have my child and I visited www.youthrules.dol.gov to review state and federal law to make sure that we know what restrictions apply to their employment?
10) 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.”
What can employers do?
Employers must comply with child labor laws, provide safety training to young workers, follow all mandates safety regulations, and be vigilant about providing a safe work place and all required safety equipment. They need to encourage open dialogue about safety with young workers who might be too shy to raise concerns.
Efforts in the area of enhanced safety not only save lives, they also save companies’ bottom line. The journal Pediatrics estimates that farm injuries cost farmers $1.4 billion a year. According to Katherine Harmon, an editor at Scientific American, a recent study also found that companies that had just one safety inspection saved 26 percent on worker compensation claims on average. The average amount saved per company over a five-year period: $355,000.
What can the federal and state governments do?
The U.S. Department of Labor and state agencies must enforce the laws and conduct regular reviews to ensure that new workplace hazards are dealt with. Hazardous Orders updates need to be conducted in a timely fashion. DOL should reconsider its ill-advised decision not to reintroduce occupational protections for children in agriculture during the Obama administration. Companies that repeatedly violate child labor laws should not have their fines reduced.
States should resist efforts by reactionary forces to rollback child labor protections.
What can Congress do?
Existing inequities in child labor policy such as allowing agricultural workers to perform hazardous jobs at younger ages should also be remedied. Congress should act to raise the age at which children can work for wages in agriculture to the standard of other industries. Children under 14 who are not working on their parents’ farm should be prohibited from working in the fields and the Secretary of Labor should determine what agricultural tasks can sa
These protections are embodied in the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act), legislation that will be introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) in the summer of 2011. This legislation has been endorsed by over 100 national and regional organizations, including 20 farmworker organizations. In the last Congress, more than 100 members of the House co-sponsored CARE, but Congressional leaders refused to move the bill and protect America’s most vulnerable workers.
Congress should also pass tougher federal laws to regulate traveling sales crews.