Many high school and college students with part-time jobs work in the restaurant industry. This can involve anything from manning the drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant to working as a server or bus person at a high-end eatery. While some students have jobs year-round, the number of teens in the workplace increases during the summer — and so does the number of injuries.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that each summer, employees younger than 18 suffer approximately 160,000 injuries and illnesses related to their job. The majority occur in restaurants. Sharp objects, hot food and beverages and potentially dangerous equipment abound — particularly in the areas where food is prepared.
Why are teens who work in restaurants particularly susceptible to injuries? There are a number of reasons. Some are related to attributes common to teens. Others, however, are preventable by conscientious employers.
Teens may not have developed the judgment needed to avoid risky situations — or they may be afraid to say no to a request that could put them at risk. They may lack the experience to know how to do things safely. Kids often hesitate to ask questions in the workplace because they don’t want to be perceived as not knowing what they’re doing.
However, employers often let down their young employees by not giving them the training — particularly safety training — they may give their permanent, full-time employees. They may need extra supervision that the restaurant lacks the manpower to provide.
Further, too many employers fail to abide by state and federal child labor laws that restrict what kinds of duties employees under 18 years of age can perform and what hours they can work. Kids and even their parents often aren’t aware of these laws, either.Restaurants need to develop a training plan to ensure that all of their young employees follow the appropriate safety guidelines — even if they work just one or two days a week. They also need to be aware of legal restrictions regarding employees who are minors.
If your child is injured in the workplace, don’t just assume that they were being careless or not following instructions or procedures. It’s important to determine whether their employer could or should have prevented the injury and if they qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.