Many Virginia entities hire teenagers as temporary employees during the summer season. For many teens, summer employment will be one of their first jobs.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), approximately 70 teenagers will die each year in the United States due to work-related injuries, hundreds will be hospitalized, and tens of thousands will require treatment in hospital emergency rooms.
Compliance with labor laws
There are many issues to consider when hiring teens and minors to fill seasonal positions. Chief among these considerations is what type of work is allowed under federal or state law. There are a number of prohibited occupations under the various Child Labor Acts and related regulations. Members should be aware of and comply with these specific requirements.
An employer that fails to comply with provisions of federal or state child labor laws may be subject to fines for the first offence. If an employer is convicted of repeatedly violating these laws the employer will be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and penalties could be severe.
Operation of city vehicles, equipment
Evaluate the driving ability and skill of teens before they are given the responsibility of operating municipal vehicles and/or municipal equipment – such as riding mowers, pickup trucks, and passenger vehicles. Minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from driving automobiles and trucks on public roadways unless the driving is occasional and incidental. No employee under 17 years of age may drive on public roadways as part of the job, if that job is subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Training and supervision
Once you have determined that the seasonal employee can be placed in a particular job, adequate training and supervision must be provided to ensure the safety of the employee and their co-workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires training in a number of areas. Seasonal employees that are exposed to safety issues on the job should receive the same safety training as full-time employees with similar exposure.
Common safety programs, which require employee training:
- Injury and Illness Recordkeeping – Employee Involvement (1904.35)
- Emergency Action Plans (1910.38)
- Fire Prevention Plans (1910.39)
- Occupational Noise Exposure (1910.95)
- Flammable and Combustible Liquids (1910.106)
- Storage and Handling of Liquefied Petroleum Gases (1910.110)
- Personal Protective Equipment (1910.132)
- Respiratory Protection (1910.134)
- Permit-required Confined Spaces (1910.146)
- Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)
- Medical Services and First Aid (1910.151)
- Portable Fire Extinguishers (1910.157)
- Standpipe and Hose Systems (1910.158)
- Fire Detection Systems (1910.164)
- Employee Alarm Systems (1910.165)
- Servicing of Single Piece and Multi-Piece Rim Wheels (1910.177)
- Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178)
- Overhead and Gantry Cranes (1910.179)
- General Requirements: Welding, Cutting, and Brazing (1910.252)
- Laundry Machinery and Operations (1910.264)
- Electrical Training (1910.332)
- Commercial Diving (1910.410)
- Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records (1910.1020)
- Bloodborne Pathogens (1910.1030)
- Hazard Communication (1910.1200)
- Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (1910.1450)
Other suggested training can include:
- Back injury prevention
- Office/shop ergonomics
Seasonal employees in park and recreation departments commonly use and operate powered lawn mowers, riding lawn mowers, weed trimmers, chain saws, etc. In one city, a young employee was told to perform some weed trimming in one of the parks. Member entities should provide specific training and closely supervise younger employees to be certain they are following procedures and are wearing proper personal protective equipment, if required.
According to NIOSH, youth workers most often get hurt as a result of:
- Doing work for which they are not trained, sometimes without being asked.
- Inappropriate supervision.
- Working with dangerous tools.
- Performing tasks that violate youth employment laws.
For more information on working with seasonal employees, check out Safety Awareness for Seasonal Employees, a video available in VML Insurance Programs’ Multimedia Library, free for eligible members.
The 23 minute video shows seasonal and volunteer employees how to recognize hazards, prevent accidents, and control a hazardous situation. Scenarios are shown in parks and recreation, public works, maintenance and other municipal departments.
To stress the importance of mower safety, check out the video below.
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