#KeepTeenWorkersSafe—More Than Just a Hashtag

​The hot topic on CareerSafe's social media channels in April and May was teen worker safety. Using the hashtag #KeepTeenWorkersSafe, CareerSafe and our partners shared tips and engaged youth workers in an almost month-long conversation about workplace safety. We were thrilled to highlight so many resources for young workers—and we were a little sad when the official campaign period ended. But the conversation didn't stop in mid-May, because #KeepTeenWorkersSafe is much more than a once-a-year hashtag or social media campaign. You're probably thinking, "Then what exactly is #KeepTeenWorkersSafe?" We're so glad you asked!

Laying the foundation for progress

In June 2018, CareerSafe joined the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Alliance program. Through the Alliance, OSHA and CareerSafe are collaborating to improve workplace safety and health awareness among youth workers, employers, and school educators and administrators. We also share information and resources on common hazards encountered by new workers, as well as the rights of workers and employers under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act—all with the goal of preventing and reducing workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Soon after joining the Alliance, we also connected with other like-minded OSHA partners to answer the burning question at hand: How can we amplify each other's voices to bring attention to youth worker safety? Thus, the foundation for #KeepTeenWorkersSafe was laid.

What's the big deal with youth worker safety?

"Why the emphasis on young workers?" you may be wondering. Well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 46.7% of the youth population (ages 16-24) had a job in July 2020—that's nearly HALF our youth who have joined the workforce! Unfortunately, in addition to hazards prevalent in the places teens typically work, limited or no prior work experience and lack of safety training contribute to high injury rates among this segment of the workforce population. In fact, as part of OSHA's national online dialogue during the #KeepTeenWorkersSafe event, OSHA shared an alarming statistic: a teen aged 15-19 is treated in the emergency room for a workplace injury approximately every 5 minutes. That's an unacceptably high number, especially when you consider that many of these injuries are preventable with the right education and resources. We can change the statistic.

Building the framework

Between April and July each year, the youth labor force grows sharply as high school and college students seek summer employment and new graduates enter the workforce (the rate of growth between April and July 2020 was 33.5%, or about 4.4 million). In May 2019, with this growth trend in mind, CareerSafe initiated safety conversations with youth workers. Using OSHA's #KeepWorkersSafe as a springboard and operating with #MySafeSummerJob as a conversation outlet, we asked teens heading into the summer workforce what they were doing—or planned to do—to keep themselves safe on the job. The effort was so successful that we repeated it in November 2019, gearing the conversation toward holiday employment.

The house that safety built

Fast forward to 2021, and this conversation around youth worker safety has evolved into #KeepTeenWorkersSafe, which is part of a larger campaign to protect teen workers at their summer jobs, or at temporary jobs year-round. This year's event, themed "Keeping teen workers safe is everyone's job!", took place from April 19-May 13, and encompassed three main ideas: 1) Teen Workers Have Rights, 2) Every Job Has Hazards, and 3) Speak Up.

During the campaign, the United States Department of Labor hosted their National Online Dialogue on Empowering Teen Workers to gather ideas on better ways to reach all teens, including teens with disabilities, with important information about their workplace rights and protections—because no one can tell us what teen workers need better than teen workers themselves!

We had such amazing participation, and we look forward to our next #KeepTeenWorkersSafe event! In the meantime, continue the conversation! #KeepTeenWorkersSafe is an open and continuous dialogue about the issues that face young people in the workforce today, so ask questions, give tips, and get resources using #KeepTeenWorkersSafe. Additional resources are also available on the #KeepTeenWorkersSafe website.

Our partners in this endeavor were: OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (WHD), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP), the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), and the National Safety Council (NSC).

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