Tumwater, WA – New data show a steady increase in teen workplace injuries in recent years. A total of 675 youth, age 17 and under, reported injuries on the job in Washington in 2016.
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) Child Labor Specialist Josie Bryan says training and supervision are key to decreasing these numbers.
“We all want teens to get their first job, we just want to make sure they’re safe when they’re doing it,” Bryan said. “Even the simplest things, such as how to mop up a spill or properly dispose of trash, can make a difference.”
Among the most frequent injuries teens suffered at work in 2016 were 160 cases of cuts and lacerations, 91 sprains and strains, and more than 90 falls. Accommodations and food service, and retail were the categories with the most teen workplace injuries, with more than 340 combined.
“It’s been long known that young workers have a higher rate of getting hurt on the job than older adults, she said. “Even one injury is too many.”
What parents, employers, and teens can do
All workers have a right to appropriate training and can refuse unsafe work assignments, Bryan said. In general: 14- and 15-year-olds may perform lighter tasks, such as office work, cashiering, and stocking shelves; 16- and 17-year-olds can do more, including some limited work in landscaping or manufacturing.
Some examples of prohibited duties for teens under 18 years old include not working on anything higher than 10 feet off the ground, not working alone at night, and not around heavy machinery. Teens 16 years old can’t drive on the job, and 17-year-olds can drive only under limited circumstances. Limits on work hours also vary by age. Go to www.Lni.wa.gov/TeenWorkers for more information.
L&I urges parents to ask about their teen’s jobs, including what their hours are and what training they’ve received. Employers must have an endorsement on their business license to hire youth. Written permission from the parent, school (if in session), and teen for hours and days worked, and whether the teen has other employment is also required.
L&I also offers an Injured Young Workers Speakers program, which includes visits to schools across the state. Students get a chance to talk with workers who had major, life- changing injuries on the job when they were young adults. The program connects with thousands of Washington teens every year.
Source: WA L&I