Are you adding teenage employees to your workforce this summer? If so, remember that you have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace.
In 2020, 32,970 teens experienced an OSHA-recordable injury requiring treatment beyond first aid according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workplace injuries and illnesses among teens are on the rise.
Here are some tips to help your company change this statistic.
Ask Before You Assign a Task How old is the teenager? Is the task being assigned suitable? Is it legal? There are restrictions on what teens can do under the Fair Labor Standards Act. For example, there are age restrictions for operating trash compactors/balers, operating motor vehicles, using meat slicers and grinders, cleaning cooking equipment, handling hot oil or grease, and loading and unloading goods to or from trucks or conveyors. Businesses such as grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants and amusement parks can be impacted by these limitations. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor YouthRules! website for more details. Their Employer’s Pocket Guide to Youth Employment is a great resource as well. A detailed job description is a great place to document the specific tasks for the role and verify the role is age-appropriate.
Coach Seasonal Employees Up
Once tasks are reviewed, coach young employees about the rules and why they are in place—to keep them safe. Teenage employees often have a mentality that an injury will not happen to them, and they do not have the experience of seeing the impacts of injuries and illnesses. Protecting youth from themselves can be challenging. The training must be understandable, relatable and engaging. First-line supervisors are the best models of correct behavior and set the tone for the company. Training should include hands-on examples. Remember that young workers are conditioned to be in the classroom or on the sports field, not the work environment.
Give Them a Sign
While it does not substitute for training, workplace signage is a way to remind employees of rules and requirements. Posting warning labels on prohibited equipment can help prevent injuries. Also, hanging posters throughout the workplace in areas such as the lunchroom or employee restrooms regarding safety can help raise awareness. Another great addition to an employer’s injury-prevention plan is a safe worker’s promise or pledge, a document that outlines personal commitments to live and work by.
Observe and Reinforce
Take time to observe all employees, young and experienced alike, as they perform tasks. Engage in conversation to positively reinforce safe habits or address the need for behavior change. Correcting an unsafe behavior should be paired with a discussion about the possible consequences of that behavior as well as express care for the employee. When employees feel that leadership cares, they are more likely to work safely.
Recognize The Team Provide positive feedback for safe work performance. Reinforced positive behavior tends to continue and spread through a team. A safe workplace is a productive workplace. Simple recognition can help retain the best employees, no matter their ages, and boost morale by making them feel appreciated.
Authored by Beverlie Cote