Youth Workers and Workplace Safety
“Young Workers – You Have Rights!” is the tagline for the most recent nationwide campaign promoted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). According to the agency's fact sheet on the topic, most youth find paid employment, either during the summer or year-round, before graduating from high school. Young workers, ages 14-24, are at risk of workplace injury because of their inexperience at work and their physical, cognitive, and emotional developmental characteristics. They often hesitate to ask questions and may fail to recognize workplace dangers. OSHA has made young workers a priority within the agency and is committed to identifying ways to improve young worker safety and health.
OSHA, a division of the Labor Department, provides resources for young workers, employers, parents and educators and reminds employers that “…young workers can be an asset to your workforce. However, it may be their first job or the first time they are operating equipment.” OSHA's campaign also reminds employers that child labor laws restrict the types of jobs, hours worked, and equipment used by youth under age 18.
OSHA provides employers tips and guidelines for protecting young temporary workers, including:
- Host employers must treat temporary workers as they treat existing workers, especially including adequate training to young temporary workers.
- Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the employee and are jointly responsible for the temporary employee's safety and health.
- First-line supervisors have “the greatest opportunity” to protect young workers and influence work habits and they should stress safety.
- State by State Labor Laws – click here to review California's Child Labor Laws.
The agency also reminds us that under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), employers have the responsibility to provide a safe and healthful work environment and comply with occupational safety and health standards. In addition, the agency highlighted the following employer responsibilities:
- Understand and comply with the relevant federal and state child labor laws. For example, these laws prohibit youth from working certain hours and from performing dangerous or hazardous work.
- Ensure that young workers receive training to recognize hazards and are competent in safe work practices.
- Training should be in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand and should include prevention of fires, accidents, and violent situations and what to do if injured.
- Implement a mentoring or buddy system for new young workers. Have an adult or experienced young worker answer questions and help the new young worker learn the ropes of a new job.
- Encourage young workers to ask questions about tasks or procedures that are unclear or not understood. Tell them whom to ask.
- Remember that young workers are not just “little adults,” and employers should be mindful of the unique aspects of communicating with young workers.
- Ensure that equipment operated by young workers is legal and safe for them to use. Employers should label equipment that young workers are not allowed to operate.
Questions about Young Workers and Workplace Safety in California?
For more information about workplace safety, or to discuss California employer responsibilities for keeping young workers safe, feel free to contact leading California employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley. Call toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or click here to contact us via email.