Keeping Young Workers Safe in the Workplace

Many businesses in the Hudson Valley area rely upon young workers for their work force on a temporary and part-time basis. Young workers are often proven to be reliable, hard-workers; therefore many small business owners like to hire them. Young workers show a sense of dedication to the business and in return they receive work experience. It is generally a win-win for both parties involved. Young workers may have high energy and enthusiasm, but they statistically pose higher work-related risks than their adult counterparts.

In 2013, there were approximately 18.1 million workers less than 24 years of age; representing 13% of the overall workforce in America. Young workers tend to have high occupational injury rates. These rates can partly be explained by a high frequency of injury hazards in workplaces where they typically work. For example, many young workers become involved in the restaurant industry where many injuries can be linked to slippery floors and the use of knives and cooking equipment. Inexperience and lack of safety training also increases injury risks for young workers. And, for the youngest workers, such as those in high school, there may be biologic and psychosocial contributors to increased injury rates, such as inadequate fit, strength, and cognitive abilities to operate farm equipment such as tractors.

Three years ago, there were 375 workers under 24 years of age who died from work-related injuries, including 29 deaths of youth less than 18 years of age. For the 10 year period of 1998 to 2007, there was an annual average of 795,000 nonfatal injuries to young workers treated in U.S. hospitals. The rate for emergency department-treated occupational injuries of young workers was approximately two times higher than that of among workers 25 years and older. The U.S. Public Health Service has a Healthy People objective to reduce rates of occupational injuries treated in emergency departments among working adolescents 15-19 years of age by 10% by 2020.

As an employer we certainly encourage you to give equal opportunities for all prospective employees, regardless of age, race, color, creed, and age. We simply want to demonstrate that young workers may pose an additional risk of injury if your business does not take the proper training precautions.

To help protect teens and young workers, encourage them to:

  • Report unsafe conditions to a shift/team leader or supervisor.
  • Wear any safety gear required to do your job.
  • Follow the safety rules.
  • Ask questions.
  • Ask for help if needed.
  • Facts and information brought to you in part by Merchants Insurance and the CDC excerpt “Young Worker Safety and Health.”
  • When you encourage your employees to speak up, ask questions, and ask for assistance they will be more receptive towards advice and training because they will feel as if they have a voice.

As an employer you have an obligation to your employees to keep them safe and provide the proper training and education they need to maintain a safe work environment. We hope that this article has raised awareness for your small business.