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Teens Working Summer Jobs Need to Think About Safety

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An example: "It is permissible for 14 and 15 year olds to work in retail and office settings, but children are prohibited from working in warehouses, construction, transportation," says Castillo. "[The law] also limits the number of hours and days they can work."

On average, about 70 deaths of kids under 18 occur every year in the workplace, primarily in retail settings. "The majority are robbery related, in settings like convenience stores or fast-food outlets at closing hours," Castillo tells WebMD.

Teens in auto-related fatal accidents typically involve pizza and other types of delivery services, she adds. "Based on child labor laws, 16-year-olds should not do any driving; 17-year-olds should not have driving as a regular part of their job and should not be driving to meet specific deadlines," says Castillo.

Some advice to parents:

  • Take an active role in the employment decisions of your children, Castillo says. "Often when they reach adolescence, parents tend to allow kids more independence. But parents need to talk with kids about the type of work they are getting, what it involves, and what training and supervision is provided."

One small NIOSH study -- a telephone survey of kids treated in emergency departments -- found that "a fair proportion of kids reported not receiving any safety training whatsoever," Castillo tells WebMD. "Also, they were not supervised at the time they were injured.

"The way I look at it, you have kids going into the workplace -- into an environment that's very different from what they're used to, and without any guidance about hazards they might face, risks, what can be done to prevent them," he says.

  • Make sure your kids are not operating dangerous equipment, says Michael Shannon, MD, associate chief of emergency medicine at Boston Children's Hospital. "Most of the injuries we see are hand injuries. It's usually when kids are working around equipment they're not qualified to use. It can be as simple as a knife."
  • Chemicals are a potential hazard everywhere, and kids need to be told how to use them, Shannon tells WebMD. "Even Burger King has some chemicals like cleaning solvents, that kind of thing. Kids don't realize they're at risk for burns. We're talking about agents that can be as seemingly benign as floor cleaner. You can get burns from floor cleaners."
  • Instruct kids to talk to their employers about safety. "It's the same advice I give an adult," says Shannon. "When you get a job, it's important to know the type of environment you're working in, what hazardous chemicals are involved, what does the employer provide in terms of personal protection."

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