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Tips to Curtail Teen Worker Injuries and Claims

Thursday, May 24, 2001 | 487 | 0 | min read

As the school year comes to an end and temperatures begin to rise, so too will the number of workplace-related accidents and deaths involving teenage workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 2 million teenagers will enter the workplace this summer. Tragically, each year some 70 teens are killed while working and 210,000 are injured; 70,000 teens are injured seriously enough to require hospital emergency room treatment.

'Unfortunately, employers can't watch every employee every minute of the day. However, companies have the power to change this teen injury trend,' says Nancy Froude, ManagedComp president and chief executive officer. 'All workplace injuries are a traumatic event for both the injured party and the employer. When a teen is injured on the job, the psychological toll can be a truly terrible and weighty burden for all concerned,' she added.

Teens are a significant percentage of the seasonal workforce, weighing in heavily in both the retail and food service sectors, Froude said. To keep teens safe in the workplace this summer, ManagedComp recommends the following tips for employers:

* Make safety cool. Never underestimate a teen's need to be cool! Remember how enormous peer pressure was for you in your teens? Teens may not think it's cool to appear dumb by asking questions or wearing protective equipment. Break down these barriers!

* Keep a sharp eye out. Watch your young workers closely for fatigue - they may not yet have the stamina of your experienced workers. Also watch for any signs of substance abuse and establish a zero tolerance standard.

* Take a lesson from Madison Avenue. There's a reason why advertising works - it repeats a message frequently and in different media. Make sure your safety message stays top of mind at all times. Activities such as stuffing safety tip sheets in paycheck envelopes and hanging signs everywhere will go a long way in reinforcing your safety message.

* Train, train, train! Don't forget to make safety a number one priority in any training program. State the policies and set expectations. Point out hazards, demonstrate things that could go wrong and be explicit. Teens have an illusion of immortality that you need to break through.

* Pat on the back. Institute a program to reward good safety practices or a 'safety tip of the month' program for teens to provide their recommendations for making the workplace safer. Offer gift certificates to the local pizza restaurant and movie passes as incentives.

* Buddy up. Pair a new teenage worker with an older, more experienced worker for their first few days. Have the 'safety mentor' frequently check in on the teen in the first few weeks of work. This will help to spread the responsibility throughout the workforce.

* Get Mom & Dad involved. Send a letter to your new employees' parents telling them about your company's safety policies, and ask for their support in reinforcing the message.

* Dress for success. Make your under-age workers visible to their co-workers in some readily identifiable way so everyone can look out for them. Give teens different colored name tags, uniforms or caps so that everyone can look out for them.

* Hold managers accountable. Set your expectations with supervisors and managers, and schedule trainings in laws and issues related to teen workers. Make sure your expectations have teeth - put this important issue in performance reviews!

* Walk the walk. Owners and senior managers need to set the example and live the commitment. Walk through your workplace on unscheduled visits. Talk to teens one-on-one about safety and probe for questions or suggestions. Many teens may not yet be assertive enough to speak up with concerns. Correct hazards or unsafe behaviors immediately.

Contact the following resources to find out more information on how to make your workplace safer:

* ManagedComp

Drawing attention to teenage workplace safety
www.managedcomp.com/news/article_contest2000.html

* U.S. Department of Labor

Quick look at the Fair Labor Standards' Act - child labor provisions
www.dol.gov/dol/opa/public/summer/guide/flsa.htm

Employers' Guide to Teen Worker Safety
www.dol.gov/dol/opa/public/summer/employer.htm

* Center for Disease Control - National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety

Promoting Safe Work for Young Workers
www.cdc.gov/niosh/99-141.html

Article courtesy of Insurance News Net and ManagedComp

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