While teenagers may not think about workplace safety when starting a summer job, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) believes they should and wants their employers to focus on it as well. In the United States, a teenage worker is injured on the job every nine minutes. In 2012, more than 170,000 young workers were injured at the workplace and 361 were killed. As part of its efforts to curb workplace injuries, OSHA is attempting to educate young workers on their rights, in part, by creating a special webpage for young workers with access to blogs, real-life stories of workplace accidents, a list of known workplace hazards in industries and jobs typically filled by young workers, and various other resources including reporting mechanisms.
As part of this campaign, OSHA has several recommendations for employers. Consistent with other recent initiatives, including the temporary worker program, OSHA is encouraging employers to train young workers to recognize workplace hazards and to engage in safe workplace practices. OSHA also suggests developing a mentoring program or buddy system as a way to help young workers learn the ropes of the job and related safety concerns. OSHA is helping support further efforts at the local level through grants designed to provide training and education regarding the recognition, avoidance and prevention of health and safety workplace hazards.
Employers would be well served to pay attention to this and other OSHA initiatives. Even though there are no new standards or regulations in play, campaigns such as this one are a likely harbinger of things to come, namely during the next work site inspection. Employers with significant numbers of younger workers, particularly during the summer or holiday seasons, would do well to consider implementing OSHA's suggested training programs if similar programs do not already exist and take steps to ensure that the policies and procedures in place adequately take into account the risks facing younger workers less accustomed to the potential safety hazards of a particular workplace or industry.