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Tips for safely employing young workers

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Young workers want to perform well at work, but often require extra assistance to work safely. This is mostly because the human brain isn't finished developing until people reach their mid-20s; and that can lead to poor judgment around working decisions. Here are some tips for employers to prepare youth and young adult workers for a safe and healthy working experience.

Tip 1:

Follow this multistep process when training your young worker

  • I Do: The trainer should demonstrate each step in the process; pointing out safety features
  • We Do: The trainer and the young worker perform the task together; articulating each step in the process
  • You Do: The young worker does the task by themselves; the trainer provides feedback as needed
  • You Teach: The young worker teaches back to the trainer how to do the task
  • Ask if they have any additional questions
  • Check again later to verify they continue to do the task correctly and safely

Tip 2:

Coach your young workers on the importance of identifying hazards

  • Demonstrate how every working environment has hazards, including physical, biological, chemical, and other (noise, vibration, radiation, etc.).
  • Show young workers where safety information about hazards and chemicals is located (SDS).

Tip 3:

Help them find ways to make the job safer

  • Educate young workers on the safety procedures, including how to properly use personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Encourage workers to know the Hierarchy of Controls and apply it when possible.
  • Direct them to the Oregon OSHA website for more information on workplace safety and health.

Tip 4:

Train young workers about their rights and responsibilities

  • Train young workers to notify their supervisor if they are injured on
    the job.
  • Provide them with resources about the agencies that govern workers’
    safety rights.
  • Ensure they are aware of the rules that apply to them based on their age and ability.

Tip 5:

    Prepare your young workers for emergencies

    • Talk to them about what will happen in case of an emergency
      (workplace violence, fire, earthquake, etc.).
    • Make sure the young workers both understand and practice the
      emergency action plan.

    Tip 6:

      Teach them how to take action if necessary

      • Educate your young workers on who to talk to if they ever feel unsafe
      • Show them the importance of asking questions and engaging with
        other workers.

      Here are some ideas from other employers on ways to ensure safety for young workers at
      your workspace:

      • Issue different colored vests to employees under the age of 18 so supervisors know who is not allowed to operate certain equipment.
      • Assign a mentor to each new and/or young worker, providing the worker with a resource and
        someone who can answer their questions.
      • On the first day of work, give all young workers a pocket-sized “minor policy card” which
        explains your company’s young worker health and safety policies.
      • Train all supervisors on the requirements of federal and state child labor laws. Provide
        refresher trainings periodically.
      • Place warning stickers on equipment that young workers cannot legally operate or clean.
        These stickers are part of the young worker toolkit and are available for download at

      Teen workplace safety resources

      For more on this topic, visit saif.com/youngworkers.