Hiring teen workers can be a smart move for businesses that are looking for motivated employees. These entry-level workers will need guidance and safety training, however.
Young, seasonal first-time retail workers frequently lack safety and job-specific knowledge and skills. This absence of work experience and safety training often leads to a lack of awareness and can result in potential injuries. Claims data confirms that injury rates among teen workers are two to three times higher than older workers.
Teens and young adults might miss potential dangers that may be apparent to a seasoned worker, and assuming young workers know what to do in any given circumstance can be dangerous. (See our recent post on Situational Awareness). Remember that training younger workers will be most effective when the instructor avoids using industry jargon and has a straightforward approach when presenting.
When training on workplace tasks, give clear instructions for each task while encouraging young workers to ask questions. Supervise younger workers closely, immediately correcting any issues or risky behaviors, and prepare them for emergencies, such as fires and violent or unexpected dangerous situations.
It is best to assign a work buddy to mentor them for the first part of their training.
Important safety and health skills to review with young workers:
- Empower teens to ask questions and report problems or concerns when unsafe or threatened.
- Recognizing how workplace injuries can affect their personal lives.
- Identifying hazards in the workplace.
- How to remedy workplace hazards to prevent injury and illness.
- Identifying common workplace emergencies and how to address them best.
- Having a clear understanding of employer and worker rights and responsibilities at work.
- Demonstrating how workers can best communicate with others, including those in authority.
Teach new young workers to be mindful of the space around them at all times to better watch out for people, boxes, forklifts, and moving objects in the work area that could fall on or hit them.
RS SafetyTV has a variety of videos that are useful when training entry-level workers. Additional helpful tools for safety training can be found in our SAFEME Essentials, which are available in English and Español.
Washington’s L&I has specific rules and processes for hiring young workers younger than 18. See more on How to Hire Minors.
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