Teen workers play a crucial role in all kinds of Maryland workplaces – particularly throughout the summer and holiday season. If your teen is one of these temporary workers, it is important for you and them to know that they have the same rights to a safe and healthy work environment as every other employee does.
The fact that teens may only be working part-time or temporarily does not minimize any of those rights. However, many teens hesitate to speak up if they see a health or safety hazard. Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) reminds teens that they cannot legally be terminated or penalized in any way for reporting a health or safety problem.
Teens are at a high risk to suffer workplace injuries
Too often, employers don’t spend enough time training teen employees on safety protocols. This can be a recipe for disaster not just for young employees but for others in the workplace as well.
Teen workers are among those most likely to suffer an injury, in part due to their lack of experience. Too often, however, teens don’t report injuries because they don’t consider them serious, fear losing their job or don’t realize that they have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
Steps employers should take to protect teen employees
MOSH describes several steps employers of teen employees must take to ensure a safe workplace for all:
- Comply with state and federal labor laws regarding minors in the workplace.
- Ensure teen workers are both properly trained and supervised. This includes instructing their immediate supervisors of proper safety protocols to ensure they are sufficiently looked out for at all times.
- Develop a work injury and illness prevention plan that can help identify any issues in the workplace. Often, safety hazards can be proactively addressed through planning and considering things like workplace layout.
- Help younger workers understand the safety risks they may be exposed to in the workplace. Teenage workers may have little work experience and require proper training to understand safe work practices.
Taking these four steps can help prevent injuries in the workplace for teenage workers. Parents should also help their teens understand the steps their employer should be taking and encourage them to speak up if more training is needed.
Know the workplace laws for minors
There are also certain things that employees under 18 cannot legally do in the workplace – like operating particular types of equipment or heavy machinery. There are also federal and state laws regarding work hours and prohibited occupations for those under 16.
In most cases, teens under 18 in Maryland are required to have a work permit to get a job. The state’s workers’ comp laws carry serious penalties for employers who do not require this permit if a teen is injured or worse.
If your teen has suffered a work-related injury or illness, don’t let them be told that they cannot obtain the compensation to which they’re entitled because of their age or because it’s “just” a temporary or part-time position. You may need to seek legal guidance to get the benefits they’re due under the law.