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The biggest hazard for young workers could be inexperience

Are you one of the thousands of young workers who join the California workforce every summer? It might be a temporary summer job or the start of your career. Unfortunately, the injury rate among young workers is significant, mainly because of inexperience and inadequate training. Employers must provide the necessary training and make sure you know your rights to a safe workplace environment.

It is not uncommon for many people to think they are invincible, and if you are not informed about potential hazards of the jobs and environments you enter, devastating workplace accidents can follow. Some risks are common to any workplace, but each industry also has unique dangers, and you would be wise to understand these risks from the start.

Typical causes for injuries to young workers:

There are strict regulations about the types of jobs minors may and may not do. However, numerous hazards exist in the jobs that they may do. The following are typical causes for injuries:

  • Training: Inadequate training related to general workplace safety that includes housekeeping to prevent slips and trips, proper use of personal protective equipment, and safe operation of equipment.
  • Unsafe equipment: Without the necessary knowledge and the ability to recognize hazards, you could suffer injuries while working with unsafe equipment.
  • Lack of supervision: Inexperienced workers must have constant monitoring to ensure their safety.
  • Noncompliance with safety standards: Employers must ensure compliance with the safety regulations as prescribed by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The sooner you learn about these rules the better.
  • Illegal work allocation: If you are under the age of 18, there will be some limits to the jobs you may do. Unlawful exposure to those jobs can cause severe injuries.
  • Stress and pressure: If you are pressured to work faster at a task with which you are still unfamiliar, the stress may lead to injuries.

Popular but hazardous summer jobs

Injuries and hazards for young workers that are prevalent in all industries include trips, slips and falls, burns, cuts, sprains, strains, and chemical exposure as well as hearing loss, eye injuries, electrocution, machinery malfunction and vehicle accidents. However, the following workplaces and jobs have unique risks to consider:

  • Agriculture: If you take a position on a farm, you will risk injuries caused by machinery, falls, struck-by hazards, electricity, hazardous chemicals, organic dust, insecticides and heat.
  • Garden services and tree trimming: The risks of this job include heat illness, exposure to chemicals and pesticides, machinery such as wood chippers and chainsaws, heavy lifting, electric shocks, and excessive noise.
  • Construction: Some regard this as the most hazardous industry that poses risks of falls from elevated areas, dangerous machinery and tools, struck-by hazards, electricity, confined spaces, vehicles, and noise.
  • Convenience, grocery and other retail stores: The list of hazards is almost endless. It includes dangerous machinery and equipment, heavy lifting, slippery floors, obstructed walkways, violent crimes, and more.
  • Administrative or clerical work: Although this is not a physically demanding job, it poses hazards that include stress, repetitive-motion injuries, and neck and back strain.
  • Maintenance and janitorial jobs: Depending on the facility, you could face exposure to hazardous chemicals, sanitizers and cleaning materials. Also, heavy lifting, slippery floors, electrical shocks, infectious diseases and more can cause you injury or worse.
  • Fast food and other food service establishments: Working in kitchens will expose you to hot cooking equipment, steam and liquids, such as hot oil, along with sharp objects, electricity and slippery floors.

Learn your rights

Make sure you know your rights in your new workplace -- one of which is the right to pursue financial relief through the California workers' compensation system in the event of an on-the-job injury. You may also seek the help of legal counsel to explain your rights and assist with the navigation of a benefits claim to cover your medical expenses and lost wages.

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