Right after Memorial Day each year, about 2 million kids flock to the workplace to take seasonal summer jobs. This year, with a teen unemployment rate of about 30%, the numbers may be a little lower. And with intense competition for jobs, there is one potential side effect that may come into play: teens may be tempted to take on tougher jobs, ones that pose greater potential risks to their health and safety.
Just about once every two minutes, a teen worker is injured on the job. Even worse, about 50 to 80 kids a year lose their lives while working. Kids are particularly vulnerable because they are inexperienced, they often have a false sense of invincibility, and they want to please their new employers. They haven't built up the work stamina, muscles and judgment that more experienced workers have. And they may not want to call attention to themselves or appear dumb by asking questions.
Because of this, it's important that employers, supervisors, and older co-workers look out for teen workers. Employers should provide safety training that is explicit about job hazards and the things that could go wrong. As with all workers, employers should also explain safety policies and procedures. Supervisors, managers, and coworkers should be asked to focus special attention on the safety of young workers. Employers might even want to "buddy up" young workers with a more experienced worker for the first few weeks of the job.
Parents play a special role in keeping young workers safe. At Workers Comp Insider, there's a good post on this topic: Parental alert: 2010's Five Worst Teen Jobs. The post lists the five least safe job sectors for teens, along with a variety of links and resources to help parents ensure that they and their kids ask the right questions about safety during the hiring process and after the job begins. If you have kids who will be entering the work force this summer, it's worth your while to check it out.