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The dangers lurking in summer jobs

Getting a summer job is a great way for a teen to earn money, gain work experience and do something productive. But along with all those pluses come some risks. If you're a teen and are embarking on the adventure of a summer job, it's important to understand the dangers you face and do everything to ensure your safety.

Statistics about teens injured and killed on the job

Young people often work in settings with increased hazards such as restaurants that have cooking equipment and slippery floors. Furthermore, they may not have the experience, training, knowledge, physical strength or (in the youngest workers) cognitive abilities required for the jobs they are trying to do. What does this mean? High work injury and death rates.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)'s division of safety research, 403 workers under the age of 24 died from work-related injuries in 2015, including 24 teenagers. Every year, nearly 800,000 young workers are injured enough to go to the hospital.

Your rights regarding safety

You have:

  • A right to work in an environment that is both safe and healthy
  • A right to receive appropriate safety training (your employer must provide training if there are risks to your safety)
  • A right to receive workers' compensation (for most jobs) if you are hurt on the job
  • A right to inform your worker of any safety risks (they cannot fire you for it)
  • A right to safety issues to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • A right to refuse any work that puts you in danger

Your employer has some obligations to make your work environment safe, but you also have some responsibilities. For example, you should attend any required training and closely follow all instructions you receive pertaining to the performance of your job. You are responsible for being conscientious about your safety by not taking risks.

What can't teenagers do on-the-job?

Employers often break the law because they either don't know the safety regulations or simply disregard them to make a profit. There are specific job duties that teenagers cannot do (by law). For example, teenagers may not operate a forklift, circular saw or meat slicer. They may not do demolition, logging or meat-packing. They may not work where there is the potential of radiation exposure. Young teenagers have further requirements (for example, they cannot cook on the job).

If you suspect you have been asked to do something you shouldn't do, speak up. It is your right.

What to do if you need help

There are times at a job when you can successfully resolve an issue on your own and other times when you need to reach out to someone else for assistance. If you think you might need help, never hesitant to seek it out. Tell your parent or other adult family member or friend what is going on. Ask them to help you resolve the problem or find someone who can.

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