Parents Can Help Keep Teens Safer at Work
The following content was provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health
The majority of teens will work at some point before graduating high school, and in Massachusetts, nearly 20% start working for pay as early as middle school. While teens are still living at home, parents and guardians have a unique opportunity to help their children make decisions about jobs.
A recent national telephone survey found that a majority of parents reported helping their teen find job opportunities, apply for jobs, ask questions about work hours and job tasks, and handle difficult issues related to the job (other than issues about safety). Many parents even reported meeting their child’s work supervisor. Despite this level of involvement, not as many parents thought of workplace safety as part of the picture. Only about half the parents surveyed reported helping their teens fill out a work permit (required in Massachusetts), and less than half reported helping their teens learn about their worker rights or youth work restrictions, or get more training for the job.
Massachusetts has many tools available designed to raise awareness among parents about workplace hazards and to help them understand the laws and regulations in place to protect teens. Some key tips and resources are below.
Teens Working in Family Businesses
Working for parents or relatives in a family business can be an important experience and source of pride for teens and their families alike. Teens contribute to the business while gaining experience needed to potentially manage the business one day or that will help them make choices about future work.
But working for family doesn’t mean a teen is not at risk. Sadly, statistics tell us otherwise. Nationwide, from 1992 through 2000, more than 30% of all fatal injuries to young workers occurred in family businesses. While more common in agriculture, deaths in family businesses can occur in any industry. Two of the three teen deaths in Massachusetts between 2005-2009 involved teens working for their dads, one in auto repair, the other in construction.
Parents, like all employers, need to think about what jobs are appropriate for youth and be reminded that their own children need training and supervision, too. Because so many children work on family farms, guidelines have been developed to assist parents in assigning age-appropriate tasks (www.nagcat.org); these guidelines match children’s growth and development with requirements of different farm chores. Though designed for agriculture, the information may be useful.
While the federal child labor laws for non-agricultural industries do not regulate age or hours for teens employed by their parents (the hazardous occupations still apply), the Massachusetts laws do. Families should be reminded that there are no child labor exceptions in Massachusetts for teens working for parents or in family businesses.
For more information on teen worker safety, please contact MA DPH Teens at Work Project: (617) 624-5632 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.mass.gov/dph/teensatwork