Young workers are often eager to have summer jobs or apprenticeships alongside people they look up to. The excitement and optimism are excellent for company morale, but there is a tradeoff for having young workers on staff — they’re accident-prone.

Just how accident-prone are teens and young adults? 

Workplace fatal and non-fatal injury rates for teens and young adults have improved throughout the years, but that’s no reason to get lax when it comes to safety. 

  • 377 workers under the age of 25 died from work-related injuries in 2017, and 22 of them were under the age of 18. (source)
  • 109,590 workers under the age of 25 had non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in 2017. (source

Do your part to prevent injuries and fatalities 

As a safety leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your company’s employees prioritize safe work practices every day. Here are some things to keep in mind with your younger workforce. 

They have limitations

It’s nice to have the boundless energy that many younger workers radiate, but they do have unique limitations. For minors, that includes the number of hours they can work. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) outlines the following restrictions for 14-15-year-olds: 

  • 3 hours on a school day
  • 18 hours in a school week
  • 8 hours on a non-school day
  • 40 hours in a non-school week
  • Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when nighttime work hours are extended to 9 p.m.

So if you have a younger person joining the team, work with your administrative staff and project managers to ensure none of the work hour laws are violated. It will protect your reputation and also help your young workers stay adequately rested — and safe — every time they clock in. 

Teens and young adults often have physical limitations as well. They may not be able to spend their whole shift transporting building materials or spend hours out in the boiling sun like some of your other employees can. Adjusting to physically taxing working conditions takes time, so understand and respect their limitations to avoid illness and injury. 

They might not ask questions

Do you remember your first job? You were probably eager to please, but not jumping at the chance to ask questions. Expecting anything different from your younger employees could lead to them making risky decisions. 

Instead of waiting for your young workers to make clear and direct requests, use these strategies to facilitate constructive conversation: 

  • Lead by example. Your staff could have a harder time adhering to policies and rules if they don’t see their boss doing the same. So wear your hard hat, take plenty of water breaks, and treat everyone with respect — younger workers will follow your lead. 
  • Always ask if they have questions. After you’re done explaining something to a teen or young adult, they may not feel comfortable asking a question. Prompt a mini Q&A by asking things like, “Does that make sense?” or “Are you ready to try it yourself?” 
  • Pair them with a more experienced worker closer to their age level. Superiors, especially at a young age, can be intimidating. Pairing a young worker with someone closer to their age and status can help break down communication barriers. 

They’re not used to considering safety

When young workers take on a job early in their career, they can feel a bit like they’re getting pushed into the deep end. It’s your job to provide floatation devices. And when it comes to safety, teens and young adults’ biggest lifesaver is going to be daily conversation and demonstration. 

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Hold daily toolbox talks before each shift. These micro-trainings are excellent reminders for your more experienced workers, as well as new material for your younger staff. If you want to freshen up your repertoire, download this PDF
  • Use plain language. Teens and young adults won’t respond to discussions surrounding “leading indicators,” “safety data sheets,” and other EHS-driven jargon, so make sure to tone it down for discussion. 
    • Confusing jargon — “You learned in onboarding that the PEL for respirable crystalline silica dust is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Don’t exceed your limit today.”
    • Plain language — “It’s not safe to be around all that dust for too long. Make sure to take your lunch at noon.”

Do you need a hand onboarding a younger team or training your existing employees? Get in touch with us today to chat with one of our EHS experts.