Teen Worker Safety

The worksite injury and illness rates for teenagers are higher than the injury and illness rates for the members of any other comparably sized age bracket in the American workforce. There are many reasons why teens are injured so often while working. These reasons can include lack of experience, inadequate training, and the reluctance some teens have to speaking up when they are in unsafe situations.

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training limits the work that teens are allowed to perform to clerical and office work; landscaping (no power-driven machinery); price tagging; bagging and cashier work; washing dishes, cleaning tables, waiting tables, and bussing tables; and assembly and shelving work. For information about the times teens can work, the hours per week they can work, the minimum wage, and the paperwork teens need to begin working, contact the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training directly.

Teens' rights at work

According to U.S. Department of Labor, teenagers at work have the right to:

  • Receive safety and health training in a language that they understand;
  • Ask questions if they don't understand instructions or if something seems unsafe;
  • Use and be trained on required safety gear, such as hard hats, goggles and ear plugs;
  • Exercise their workplace safety rights without retaliation or discrimination.

What teens and parents should do

Any unsafe work conditions should be brought to the attention of an employeer. If an employer does not take any action to correct the problem and a worksite remains unsafe, file a complaint with the Rhode Island branch of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) . If you or your teenager is in serious danger, call (800) 321-OSHA immediately.

If OSHA contacts your employer regarding the complaint and possible hazard, your name can be kept confidential. As a result of your complaint, your employer cannot fire you, demote you, or punish you in any way. If you are penalized by your employer as a result of a safety complaint, you may contact the Rhode Island branch of OSHA .

In addition to reporting unsafe conditions, other important steps that teens can take include:

  • Wearing all required safety equipment;
  • Following the safety rules;
  • Asking questions;
  • Asking for help if needed.

What employers should do

Follow federal OSHA's guidelines to limit or prevent workplace injuries and make work safer for young workers. According to these guidelines, employeers must:

  • Provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards;
  • Provide training about workplace hazards and required safety gear;
  • Tell workers where to get answers to safety or health questions;
  • Tell workers what to do if they get hurt on the job.

Safe Place for Teens to Work Award

The Safe Place for Teens to Work Award is given annually to an organization in Rhode Island with an exceptional commitment to the safety and health of its teenage employees. For more information about criteria for the award and past recipients, contact Jim Brucksaw.