Young Workers: Safety Rights

iStock_000012977779_Large.jpgDid you know that young people are some of the most unprotected members of the work force? Young workers often take summer jobs that involve working long hours in the summer heat, such as lifeguarding or landscaping. Working long hours with heat and sun exposure can take it’s toll; workers under the age of 25 are twice as likely to be injured on the job as older workers, and a U.S. teen worker is injured on the job every 9 minutes. Young employees are sometimes unaware of their rights as a worker; as a result, in 2011 more than 331 young workers were killed, and 106,170 were injured in the workplace.

Heat illness can have serious consequences, from illness to death. In these hot summer months, employers are encouraged to inform their young workers about the best defense for heat related illness: water, rest, and shade. OSHA has created an app for smartphones which allows young workers to check the heat index for their workplace, as well as view tips and reminders on how to avoid heat illness.

The app is part of OSHA’s campaign to prevent heat illness in outdoor workers. The campaign suggest Drinking water every 15 minutes when working in the heat, even if the worker is not thirsty. Other tips to prevent heat illness and death include:

  • Rest in the shade to cool down
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing
  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers
  • “Easy does it” on your first days of work in the heat, so you can get used to it.

Young outdoor workers face other worker hazards such as exposure to pesticides and injuries from mowers and other agricultural equipment. OSHA’s interagency work group, the Federal Network for Young Worker Safety and Health, offers a brochure for young workers in landscaping, greenhouses, and nurseries. The brochure contains safety tips on how to avoid hazards such as hearing loss from loud noise, “slip-and-trips,” and electric shock.

The brochure, which is also available in Spanish, reminds young workers that they cannot be fired or punished for raising concern about working conditions, contacting OSHA or requesting and OSHA inspection, or refusing to work in cases where the worker is in serious, immediate danger. Young workers are reminded that they have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, a right to inform employers about unsafe work conditions, and a right to confidentially report unsafe work conditions to OSHA.

Young employees working in construction also face work hazards such as falling from a ladder, roof, or scaffold. Falls are the number one cause of death in construction; In 2010, there were 264 fall fatalities out of 774 total fatalities in construction. This is why OSHA has made it a priority to stop falls by getting the word out on fall frequency and hot to prevent fatal falls. The outreach campaign offers fall prevention through 3 simple tips: plan, provide, train.

In any industry, young workers are encouraged to educate themselves on their rights, and on how to prevent safety issues, so that each worker can have a good start to a long, healthy working car


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