July 27, 2021

Why teens get hurt on the job more often than older workers

The national labor shortage has prompted a surge in hiring among a demographic happy to take the jobs older workers don’t want: teenagers ages 16-19. Roughly a third of American teens are working this summer, according to the Labor Department, more than before the pandemic started and well above last summer, when only 26.8% worked.

With teenagers across Colorado entering the workforce, many for the first time, employers need to know how to keep their younger workforce safe. Understanding the biggest risks to teens can help you determine where to focus your efforts.

Top causes of injury for teens

Our claims data shows that more than 380 Colorado teens were injured or became ill last year because of their summer jobs.

The most common injury causes for Colorado workers under 20 are:

  1. Cuts and burns.
  2. Being struck or caught.  
  3. Lifting.  
  4. Slips and falls.
  5. Vehicles.

We also found that 54% of workplace injuries happened to teens in their first two or three months of employment, an incidence rate two to three times higher than that for average workers in Colorado.

Pinnacol Safety Services Manager Cora Gaines thinks this occurs because teens lack the experience and training and typically perform jobs people overlook as requiring training, such as scooping ice cream, washing dishes, mopping floors or bagging groceries. No matter the job, thorough onboarding and training for all new hires, including teens, should be an essential piece of an effective safety program to prevent injuries at work.

“Teens don’t yet have years of experience in the workforce and may not be able to identify and avoid hazards that older workers would. It is essential that employers address this lack of experience with training, mentoring and close observation,” said Gaines.

Most common injuries among teens on the job

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers under 25 years old are twice as likely as older workers to end up in the emergency room. That makes sense to Gaines, who notes the claims data for teens shows mostly acute injuries rather than repetitive-type injuries that develop slowly over time.

Teenagers most commonly received injuries to their:

  1. Finger(s).
  2. Hand(s).
  3. Foot or feet.
  4. Ankle(s).  
  5. Skull.

Tips for keeping teens safe on the job

Gaines stresses that teens should look for jobs that prioritize their safety. “Employers should value employees who take their personal and co-workers’ safety seriously,” she says.  

Gaines gives six tips for helping teens stay safe on your job site:

  1. Encourage questions and open communication. Teens should feel comfortable asking questions about the job and how to perform duties safely.  
  2. Offer thorough training and onboarding that provides employees with the skills and knowledge to identify hazards.
  3. Discuss your safety program during the interview and explain how that program helps remove or reduce job hazards.
  4. Enforce the use of personal protective equipment, like safety glasses, that job duties require.
  5. Provide plenty of support (rest/hydration breaks, mandatory use of safety equipment) to help teens stay safe.
  6. Prepare for emergencies, so teens know what to do in case of a fire, workplace violence and other dangerous, unexpected situations.

Have questions about how to keep teens safe on the job? Check out our work safety resources and talk with one of our safety consultants by contacting safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.