L&I Issues Reminders for Teen Workers

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has issued guidance for teen workers during summer job season.

Many teenagers work during the summer, but young adults are injured on the job at a higher rate than adult workers. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has issued guidance for teen workers during summer job season.

Youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are injured in the workplace at almost twice the rate of older workers, and hundreds of teens are injured on the job every year. The most recent data shows that in Washington in 2017, 680 youth aged 17 and younger reported workplace injuries.

“During the summer, many teens are getting their first job. Unfortunately, when they’re trying to impress an employer some young workers won’t say anything about an assigned task or lack of supervision, even if they’re worried about it,” said Josie Bryan, youth employment specialist for L&I. “That’s dangerous for everyone.”

In 2017, there were 162 cases of cuts and lacerations among teen workers, as well as 102 sprains and strains, and 79 instances of bruises and contusions. Most injuries were the result of slips and falls, contact with hot surfaces, or being hit by a falling object.

Bryan noted that while all workers have a right to be trained appropriately and refuse unsafe work assignments, teenagers may be less likely to ask questions or assert these rights. She suggested that parents and employers could encourage teens to speak up and remind them how important it is.

Generally speaking, 14- and 15-year-olds can perform light tasks, like office work, cashiering, and stocking shelves, while working in business officers, retail or grocery stores, or movie theaters. Teens age 16 and 17 can take on more duties, such as limited work in landscaping and manufacturing. Sixteen-year-olds cannot drive on the job, and 17-year-olds can drive only in limited circumstances.

Teens under the age of 18 are prohibited from many duties, including working higher than 10 feet off the ground, working by themselves at night, or around heavy machinery. Work hours will also vary by age.

Employers who hire teen workers must have an endorsement on their business license to hire youth, written permission from parents for hours worked (and from the school if in session), and a record of whether the teenager has other employment.

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