Millions of teenagers will be exposed to the same workplace safety hazards as their adult counterparts, but they may be more likely to get injured.
Young workers are likely to be inexperienced, under-trained, physically immature, and eager to please. Consequently, they may take on tasks they are not comfortable with or fail to recognize safety hazards. They may also perform tasks without regard for proper safety procedures or freeze up in emergency situations.
On top of all that, they may be afraid to ask questions.
So how do you help keep your young workers safe? Acknowledging that they pose unique challenges with regard to workplace safety is a good place to start. Texas Mutual® loss prevention consultants recommend five tips to help make your young workers’ jobs a positive experience for you and them.
1. Know the law
The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide safe, healthy work environments for all employees. The Fair Labor Standards Act has provisions that apply to youth labor, and the Texas Child Labor Law specifically protects young Texas workers. These laws govern such things as how many hours youths can work, what industries they can work in, what tasks they can perform, and what equipment they can use.
Learn the regulations, and comply with them. If you do not, you may be subject to fines or legal action. When federal and state laws conflict, the law that provides the most protection for the worker applies.
2. Train young workers
During their first day on the job, train young workers to use personal protective equipment, follow safe work procedures, and use the safety features on machines. Give them instructions that are specific to the tasks they will perform. Ask them to repeat the instructions, show them how to do each task, watch them do it, correct mistakes, and ask them if they have any questions. Don’t let them start work until they show you that they can do their jobs safely.
Don’t stop there, though. Make sure someone supervises young workers whenever possible, and avoid letting them work alone. Periodically watch them do their jobs to make sure they take the training to heart.
3. Adopt behavior-based safety
Behavior-based safety focuses on changing the unsafe behaviors that contribute to workplace accidents. If you introduce young workers to your company’s behavior-based safety process now, you can help instill safe work behaviors that will serve them well through their entire working lifetimes.
Behavior-based safety encourages employees to watch out for each other’s safety. If possible, match young workers with front-line supervisors or experienced co-workers who can answer their questions about job tasks and safe work procedures.
4. Prepare teens for the unexpected
Every worker should know how to respond to on-the-job emergencies. Provide First Aid training, show them where to find First Aid kits and other emergency supplies, tell them whom to contact for help during emergencies, and teach them the importance of remaining calm.
Make sure they understand how to report an emergency to a 9-1-1 dispatcher. Tell them to give the location (including the street address and nearby intersection, if possible), their name, the phone number they’re calling from, a description of what happened, a description of the victim’s condition, and any medical alert information on the victim. Remind them to stay on the line until the dispatcher tells them it’s okay to hang up and always to follow the dispatcher’s directions.
5. Be approachable
Perhaps the easiest thing you can do to help keep your young workers safe is be approachable. Think back to your first job. Were you nervous? Intimidated? Eager to make a good impression?
Your young workers feel the same way. Make sure they feel comfortable asking questions and reporting unsafe conditions. Open communication is a crucial part of any workplace safety program.
Article by David Wylie and Loss Prevention Consultant Susan Larison, Texas Mutual Insurance Company.