As summer nears many businesses are ramping up hiring of teen workers, with many companies this year taking them on as they deal with the labor shortage as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Others employ teens year-round.
Taking on a teen worker comes with added responsibility in terms of compliance with state and federal laws, as well as workplace safety. Each year, 70 teenagers die while working in the U.S., while about 100,000 are injured seriously enough to require emergency room treatment.
Keep in mind there’s a lot that employers can do to prevent injuries to their teen workers, and the measures you take to keep them safe will help protect all your employees. The following are some tips you can follow if you employee teenagers:
- Workplace safety — Know the law and OSHA workplace safety and health regulations, which are designed to protect all employees, including teens, from injuries. Ensure that all jobs and work areas are free of hazards. The law requires you to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Involve every worker in your Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
- Train teens to put safety first — Give clear instructions for each task, show them what safety precautions to take and point out possible hazards. Prepare teens for emergencies, accidents, fires and violent situations. Show them escape routes and explain where to go if they need medical treatment.
- Increased supervision — Teenage workers not yet accustomed to working typically require close supervision, and they may also require more instruction and repetition to learn a task than their adult counterparts.
Instill good working habits in teen employees by encouraging them to ask questions and always request assistance when necessary. Be patient, even when you find yourself answering the same question more than once.
- Check your compliance — Make sure teenagers are not assigned work schedules that violate the law, or are given prohibited tasks like operating heavy equipment or using power tools. Also ensure they have their work permits if aged under 18.
The Department of Labor has strict rules about 14- and 15-year-olds, particularly in terms of hours they are permitted to work. Although there are no specific federal laws restricting the working hours of minors age 16 and 17, you must comply with all state laws that do, as well as any state laws that further restrict the working hours of minors age 14 and 15.
- Know the law — Make sure also that your supervisors who give teens their job assignments know the law. Encourage supervisors to set a good example, as they are in the best position to influence teen attitudes and work habits.
Your teen employees are the next generation of workers in the U.S. The teenagers you hire develop personal skills that make them more likely to go on to further their education and succeed in life. As you hire these young people, know that you do make a difference.
Educating them about professional standards, workplace health and safety, rights on the job, and how to communicate effectively will shape the workplaces of the future, as well as keep your business running smoothly.
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