May 21, 2015
Youth workplace injuries on the increase as summer job season approaches
Teens twice as likely as adults to be hurt on the job
NOTE: This news release has been corrected to remove “construction” from the list of allowable jobs for 16- and 17-year-olds (Paragraph 6).
TUMWATER – More youth, age 17 and under, were injured at work in 2014 compared to the previous year. Falls were the leading cause of injuries in the food and retail industries. Still, youth work-related injuries are down significantly from the highs in the early 2000s.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries released the data as part of “Safe Jobs for Youth Month” in May. It comes as the summer job season approaches and many youth are looking for work. Overall data shows teens are twice as likely to be hurt on the job as adults.
“A youth injured on the job can face challenges at home and school,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “Training and good workplace safety practices are incredibly important for these young workers because on-the-job injuries can have a lifetime of consequences.”
A total of 547 youth age 17 and under were injured in the workplace in 2014, up nearly 14.7 percent over the previous year. Of the total, 173 were in the food and hospitality industries. The next largest total, 80, was reported each in the retail trades and agriculture. It’s possible that the increase may be in part due to the improving job market.
“We want to ensure that employers have youth performing safe and appropriate work,” Sacks said. “I encourage parents to ask questions and make sure they know the specific duties their child is performing on the job.”
All workers have a right to appropriate training and can refuse work assignments that are unsafe. In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may perform lighter tasks, such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves. Work assignments for 16- and 17-year-olds can be less restrictive and can include cooking and some landscaping. The limits on hours worked varies by age.
The 2014 figures showed 89 injuries in the agriculture and fishing industries, up 63 percent from the previous year. Falls to the floor increased 77 percent, to 55 cases, as the chief cause of injury. Injuries in 2003 totaled 1,135. In 2011, injuries reached a low of 425 before increasing the next three years.
Many older teens are new to the workforce as well, and can face hazardous situations on the job. In 2014, an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old died in work-related incidents. The tragic deaths involved work at a logging operation and a landscaping firm.
Gov. Jay Inslee has proclaimed May “Safe Jobs for Youth Month” in Washington state. More information is available at www.TeenWorkers.Lni.wa.gov. L&I began “Safe Jobs for Youth Month” more than 15 years ago to highlight child safety at work.