TUMWATER — Hundreds of teens are hurt on the job every year in Washington state. In 2021 teen workplace injuries were up by more than 30 percent with 800 teens under age 18 injured at work.
As summer hiring picks up and teens prepare to start summer jobs again, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has launched a new webpage, www.Lni.wa.gov/Teenworkersafety to remind employers, teen workers, and their families about teen worker rights and safety on the job.
“Teenagers can be particularly vulnerable because they often don’t feel empowered to speak up for themselves on the job,” said Reed Simock, youth employment specialist with L&I. “Now, we’re seeing injuries to young workers rising to pre-COVID levels, and so many of these incidents are preventable.”
The figures tell the story
L&I records show the most common work injuries for teens range from cuts and lacerations to bruises, contusions, and burns. Causes of injuries included falling while carrying something, slipping on a wet floor, or coming into contact with an oven or other hot object.
In 2021, 113 businesses were cited for violating rules specific to youth workers, resulting in more than $640,000 in fines.
The figures are even bleaker for 18-24-year-olds: more than 17,200 were hurt on the job last year. That’s an increase over 2020, but still lower than pre-COVID levels. Nearly 6,000 of those incidents involved being struck by an object. Other top causes of injury included overexertion, repetitive motion injuries, or trips and slips.
Requirements for hiring teen workers
As we head into summer, L&I is providing additional focus and resources on teen worker safety.
Generally, the legal age to work in Washington State is 14 years old. Before an employer can hire a minor, they must obtain a:
- Minor work permit endorsement on their business license.
- Completed and signed parent/school or summer authorization form.
- Proof of age document (e.g. a birth certificate or driver’s license).
There are also specific meal and rest break requirements and hours of work limitations for teens. Employers must also ensure minors are not performing prohibited job duties. There are separate job duty restrictions for teens working in the agricultural industry.
L&I is reaching out to employers to make it easy to understand the laws and requirements. Find and sign up for webinars at L&I’s calendar of workshops, events and webinars.
L&I also goes out to schools and other organizations with real workers who suffered tragic injuries on the job to tell their stories and inspire young people to speak up for themselves and their right to safety in the workplace. L&I’s Injured Young Worker Speakers Program is now in its 13th year and provides workplace safety presentations targeting youth in schools statewide.
The program will be at Issaquah High School June 2; Mount Tahoma High School June 6; and the Columbia Basin Skills Center in Moses Lake June 8. “We all play a part in keeping youth safe at work,” said Simock. “It’s important for employers, especially, to model good safety practices so teens can take that forward to other jobs.”