HHD's Resources

Teen Injuries On-the-job

Christine Miara

During the summer, teenagers often get their first “real” job. It provides them with money and teaches them responsibility. Yet, many people aren’t aware that teens are at higher risk than adults of being injured on the job. EDC’s Chris Miara collaborates with the University of California, Berkeley, to conduct trainings and develop materials for schools and businesses about workplace hazards involving teenage workers.

Why are teens at higher risk of being injured at work?

It’s partly because the places that hire teens—restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, and retail settings—tend to have a lot of hazards. It’s also because teens often get asked to do potentially dangerous tasks for which they haven’t been trained. And, many teens don’t yet know how to assess risk or speak up and deal with it effectively. It’s not because they’re fearless or reckless or fooling around on the job.

How did you get involved in youth worker safety?

It is actually a natural extension of the work we do operating the Children’s Safety Network, which assists state and local health departments to implement injury and violence prevention programs.

We first became involved with youth worker safety in 1996, when the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) funded community-based programs to increase the safety of young workers. With the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, we set up a pilot program in Brockton, Massachusetts, and ultimately developed a curriculum for high school students called Youth@Work: Talking Safety. It teaches teens the skills they need to be safe in the workplace and to understand their rights.

What is the Young Workers’ Safety Resource Center?

Now, in collaboration with UC Berkeley, we operate the Young Workers’ Safety Resource Center. Our goal is to increase the number of young people who are trained in workplace health and safety. The Talking Safety curriculum is one tool we use for teachers and students. And it is now available in every state as well as some territories.

The other tool is a workshop for employers of teens. We provide employers with basic information about how teen workers are different from adult workers, and why they need more intensive hands-on training and supervision.

Where have you gone to deliver the workshop?

We go all over the country. Recently went to New Jersey and the Virgin Islands where we delivered a series of trainings to teams of teachers and the employers who hire their students, brought together by the State and Territorial Departments of Labor and Education.

In Georgia we trained vocational education teachers. Although they put a lot of emphasis on safety in their classrooms where they teach carpentry and welding, they were enthusiastic about using what they learned to help all their students prepare for a safer experience out in the workforce.

What about child labor laws?

Child labor laws vary by state, but the issues don’t. When you’re talking about teenagers at work, they tend to work in the same kinds of places, with the same kind of hazards. It’s really important for youth to get some basic worker safety training in school, and for employers to make sure that all their employees are safe and receive safety training for the specific activities they will be doing at that workplace.

The Young Workers’ Safety Resource Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), through a subcontract from UC Berkeley. For more information contact Chris Miara at cmiara@edc.org