EHS Management, Personnel Safety

School’s Out—Protect Your Young Workers on the Job

Summer is in full swing, and many teens and young adults are working summer jobs to earn money and gain job experience. Yet these young workers are often at greater risk of on-the-job injury than their older counterparts as a result of their inexperience. OSHA recently announced that it has entered into a voluntary agreement to undertake a 2-year “National Youth Safety Initiative” to “provide youth, aged 16–24, educators, and administrators with information and resources on the most common hazards encountered by new workers.”

Young Workers

sturti / E+ / Getty Images

During the two-year alliance, participants plan to work together to promote safety and health awareness among youth in career and technical education programs regarding workplace hazards, particularly in construction, agriculture, and healthcare [sic]; facilitate discussions on occupational safety and health training for youth and entry-level workers; and engage youth in OSHA initiatives related to falls, and safety and health programs,” says OSHA.

The alliance will use relevant injury, illness, and hazard exposure data to help identify areas of emphasis for alliance awareness, outreach, and communication activities.

Participation in Rulemaking

Under the initiative, outreach and communication objectives include:

  • Sharing information on OSHA’s National Initiatives (e.g., Emphasis Programs, Regulatory Agenda, Outreach), and opportunities to participate in initiatives and the rulemaking process;
  • Sharing information on occupational safety and health laws and standards, including the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers, and protections from retaliation for workers exercising their rights;
  • Developing information on recognizing and preventing workplace hazards, particularly those faced by young workers, and communicating such information (e.g., print and electronic media, electronic assistance tools, and websites) in a manner that effectively reaches youth workers, including those in underserved school districts;
  • Sharing information among OSHA personnel, industry safety and health professionals, and career educators and administrators through webinars, workshops, seminars, and lectures on effective OSH messaging for youth and entry-level workers; and
  • Reviewing and contributing to OSHA publications and resources intended for youth workers and employers in industries that rely heavily on these workers.

U.S. Law Covers Child Labor

Federal child labor rules were established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA does not apply to workers 18 years of age and older. However, all states have child labor laws, and some states have age certification rules for workers who are 18 to 21 years old. In situations where both a state and a federal requirement apply, employers must meet the more stringent standard. Here are several additional provisions of the FLSA that apply to young workers:

  • Fourteen is the minimum age for most nonagricultural work. However, at any age, youth may deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; work in businesses owned by their parents (except in mining, manufacturing, or hazardous jobs); and perform babysitting or perform minor chores around a private home. Also, at any age, youth may be employed as homeworkers to gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.
  • Payment of at least the federal minimum wage must be made to covered, nonexempt employees.  However, a special minimum wage of $4.25 per hour applies to employees under the age of 20 during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment with an employer.
  • Hours worked by 14- and 15-year-olds are limited during certain periods (e.g., 3 hours on a school day; 18 hours in a school week; 8 hours on a nonschool day; and 40 hours in a nonschool week). The law does not limit the number of hours or times of day for workers 16 years and older.
  • Workers 18 years or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not. Workers 16 and 17 years old may perform only any nonhazardous job.

The FLSA does not require that youth get work permits or working papers to get a job. Some states do require work permits before getting a job.