Workplace Hazards: Young Workers

Young workers have the same rights to safety as long-time employees; they get sick or injured on the job for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Unsafe equipment
  • Inadequate safety training Inadequate supervision
  • Dangerous work that is unsafe or illegal for those under 18
  • Pressure to work faster
  • Stressful work environment

work injury Employees need to be aware of risks as well, and they need to be trained on proper safety techniques for working safely on the job.

Young employees working in retail, convenience stores, offices, or grocery stores face specific challenges depending on their work environment. According to child labor rules, youth as young as 14 and 15 years old can work in these work environments. Employers are urged to educate themselves and their employees on the risks associated with these jobs, including:

  • Equipment and heavy machinery
  • Heavy lifting
  • Violent crime
  • Repetitive hand motion
  • Slippery floors
  • Stress
  • Back and neck strain
  • Repetitive hand motion

Young employees also have the right to a safe workplace in food service and fast food jobs. Restaurants and other eating establishments employ 11.6 million people in the United States, and almost 30 percent of those employees are under 20 years old. In addition to the previously mention hazards, youth working in food service need training for risks like sharp objects and hot cooking equipment.

Workers as young as 14 can also work injanitorial and cleanup services. In addition to hazards such as slippery floors and heavy lifting, those working in cleanup and maintenance face:

  • Hazardous cleaning chemicals
  • Risk of electrocution
  • Risks associated with maintenance vehicles
  • Blood on discarded needles

Employers and workers should take the time to recognize hazards in the workplace, and to find solutions for risks like bloodborne pathogens, chemical hazards and toxic substances, electricity, and personal protective equipment.

Construction, outdoor work, and industrial work are high-risk occupations, and young people should be especially vigilant in these types of workplaces. However, these types of jobs are sometimes considered non-hazardous, and a worker only needs to be at least 16 years of age to work a non-hazardous job. A worker needs to be at least 18 years of age to work in hazardous workplaces. These types of jobs put employees in danger due to:

  • Falls
  • Machines and tools
  • Exposure to the sun
  • Heat
  • Electricity
  • Moving equipment
  • Hot equipment
  • “Struck-by”
  • And various other risks

Agricultural work is subject to all the risks above, as well as exposure to pesticides and chemicals. Youth can legally work on a small farm that is exempt from the federal minimum wage provisions at any age, as long as they work outside of school hours, have parental consent, and are not doing hazardous work. At the age of 12, workers can do non-hazardous work on small farms that are not exempt from federal minimum wage provisions, as long as they have parental consent. By the age of 16, youth can work at any farm at any time. Young employees have the right to be educated and trained on workplace hazards, and employers are encouraged to be fully aware of age restrictions for hazardous work.


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