Keeping Younger Workers Safe on the Job

Teens working in the construction industry have a higher risk of being injured on the job. While workers from 15 to 24 years of age represent only 14 percent of the total workforce in the United States, they are twice as likely to be injured on the job as their more mature counterparts.

The National Young Worker Safety Resource Center reports that 70 teens are killed on the job each year and approximately 200,000 are injured. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, younger workers—especially those in their teens—are at different physical and cognitive stages of development than older workers. This means that younger workers may have more difficulty finding personal protective equipment that fits properly and tasks involving motor control or strength may prove more difficult for them.

Other factors that make younger workers more susceptible to injuries or accidents include a disregard for safety precautions because of a feeling of invincibility and less life experience with common safety hazards.

While child labor laws are in place to protect younger teens, these no longer apply when an individual turns 18. At that age, younger workers are able to operate extremely dangerous equipment such as circular saws or wrecking balls. They also can come into contact with many hazardous materials.

If you are a construction company that hires younger workers, here are some tips to help keep these workers safe on the job:

  1. Make sure that construction supervisors are aware that younger workers require more supervision than older and more experienced workers.
  2. Hold specific training sessions for younger workers that explain how to recognize and avoid common hazards. It is important that since younger workers have little experience with accidents or fires, they must be prepared for exactly what to do in such circumstances.
  3. Make sure all training materials are age appropriate.
  4. Promote an environment where teens feel free to ask questions if they are unsure about any task they are expected to perform. Further, impress on older workers that they should never ridicule such workers from coming to them for help or to ask a question.
  5. Impress on younger workers that reporting a safety hazard or concern is not only encouraged, it is required. Reassure them that there will never be repercussions from doing so.

Train. Prevent. Protect