Safety Matters Program Raises Awareness of Workplace Safety Among Teen Workers

American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) urges all employers to adhere to child labor laws

As some states reexamine their child labor laws in light of continuing labor shortages, AIHA, the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) in the workplace and community, reminds teenage workers and their parents about workplace risks as they start their first jobs and the resources available to help keep young workers safe on the job.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) partnered to create Safety Matters, a program to raise awareness among young people about workplace safety and health and to provide an understanding of the skills they need to become active participants in creating safe and healthy work environments. Safety Matters is a free, one-hour interactive teaching module and PowerPoint presentation targeted to students in grades 7 through 12, teaching students everything from how to identify hazards at work and predict how workers can be injured or made sick to how workers can communicate with others – including people in authority – when they feel unsafe or threatened.

“Recent statistics speak volumes about the risks posed to young workers and the need for proper education and training of these vulnerable workers,” says Lawrence D. Sloan, CEO of AIHA. “For many teenagers, their first job is a rite of passage – a way to save money for college or a first car, while learning real-world work skills that they can use throughout their career. Employers have a duty to protect young workers and adhere to local, state and federal child labor laws to keep them safe in the workplace.”

By current estimates, approximately 1.6 million U.S. teens (aged 15-17) have jobs. Every nine minutes, a U.S. teen is injured on the job, and each year, on average, 59,800 workers under the age of 18 are sent to the Emergency Room for job-related injuries. Even more alarming, 37 workers under the age of 18 die on the job every year on average.

Parents can play a role in helping teenagers advocate for their safety on the job, including encouraging them to ask questions if they feel their health or safety could be at risk. AIHA advises teenagers to consider these questions when starting a new job:

  • Does the employer have a training procedure for new staff to operate equipment?
  • Who is responsible for staff training?
  • Does the employer provide proper safety gear, or is it the responsibility of the employee?
  • What are the risks associated with the job?
  • What is the procedure to report a safety issue or injury on the job?

Teenagers should also be familiar with the laws in their state outlining how late at night teens can work during the school year, as being tired on the job can contribute to potential injuries. “The best advice for young workers is to know your rights and not be afraid to speak up,” adds Sloan.

In addition to the Safety Matters program, AIHA recently launched its new website, Healthier Workplaces. Designed as a hub of free information developed by occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) professionals, the website provides free resources for employers and employees to safeguard worker health and well-being, including keeping workplaces safe from infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics. Consumers can also learn how to address health risks in their homes arising from natural disasters such as wildfires and floods, as well as mold.

The new website also encompasses a Worker Health and Safety section, featuring industry-specific content for employers in chemical manufacturing, construction, first responders, and transportation (freight railway and trucking) industries. Resources include checklists, infographics, and guidance documents to assist employers in protecting their employees’ health.

About AIHA

AIHA is the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety in the workplace and community. Founded in 1939, we support our members with our expertise, networks, comprehensive education programs, and other products and services that help them maintain the highest professional and competency standards. More than half of AIHA’s nearly 8,500 members are Certified Industrial Hygienists, and many hold other professional designations. AIHA serves as a resource for those employed across the public and private sectors, as well as to the communities in which they work. For more information, visit www.aiha.org.

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