Young Worker Safety and Health
In 2021, there were about 18.9 million workers under the age of 25, representing 12.4% of the total workforce.1 Young workers have high rates of job-related injuries. These injuries are often the result of the many hazards present in the places they typically work, such as retail spaces or restaurants. However, limited or no prior work experience and a lack of safety training also contribute to high injury rates. Employers must provide a workplace free of known hazards that can cause illness, injury, or death.2
Safety and Health Resources for Young Workers
As an employer, you are responsible for the following actions:
- Follow the rules, regulations, and codes of the OSH Act, and understand and comply with all relevant federal and state child labor laws.
- Inform young workers of potential or known workplace hazards, through training and other means (policies, programs, and safety practices).
- Train workers in a language and with wording they understand, so that they can follow the safety rules.
- Ensure that equipment operated by young workers is both legal and safe for them to use. Employers should label equipment that young workers are not allowed to operate.
- Ensure young workers know what to do if they get hurt on the job.
- Openly display the OSHA poster(or state plan equivalent) listing everyone’s rights and responsibilities.
- Do not single out employees who use their rights under the Act (see OSHA’s Whistleblower Protections).
Young Worker Rights and Practices
Young workers have a right to a safe work environment and can contribute to keeping the workplace safe.
Employers can remind young workers to:
- Use work-supplied safety equipment and safety training.
- Follow procedures designed for workplace safety, and to inform a supervisor if there is something unsafe at work.
- Ask a supervisor to follow-up with a safety person if there are concerns about a job task being unsafe.
- Young workers have the right to refuse to do a job or task that is unsafe. Speak with a supervisor for all safety concerns.
Remember: You can replace a job but not a lost limb or injured back. Selected Charts on Young Worker Employment, Injuries and Illnesses
8 Things Young Workers Should Know About Working Safely
While employers are responsible for providing workers with a safe and healthy workplace, young workers should have a few basic skills to help protect themselves. The training linked to the Resources section of this page will help young workers learn more about these skills. Young workers should be able to do these 8 things:
- Recognize that although work is valuable, any worker can be injured, become sick, or even be killed on the job. Understand how workplace injuries can affect your life and your family.
- Recognize that most work-related injuries and illnesses are predictable and can be prevented.
- Identify hazards at work, evaluate the risks, and predict how workers can become hurt or sick.
- Recognize how to prevent injury and illness. Describe the best ways to handle hazards on the job and apply these to problems at your workplace.
- Spot emergencies at work and know the best ways to handle them.
- Recognize employer and worker rights and responsibilities that play a role in safe and healthy work.
- Find resources that help keep workers safe and healthy on the job.
- Show how workers can communicate with others—including people in charge—to ask questions or report problems or concerns when they feel unsafe or threatened.
1 NIOSH (2023). Analysis of the Current Population Survey. Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Unpublished.
2 Employer Responsibilities for Keeping Young Workers Safe