If you’re like many parents, you probably agree that a part-time job, whether after school, on weekends or during the summer, is a great idea. After all, working instills a sense of responsibility, helps you pay for your own expenses and teaches you that money is something that’s earned.
However, you may not give much thought to the risks your teen can face while working. Teen workers are generally believed to be at an increased risk of occupational injury because of inexperience and limited training.
Almost all jobs have hidden safety hazards, such as falling off a ladder while reaching for a box on a high shelf, slipping on a newly mopped floor or being bitten by an unruly pet.
In recent decades, repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) like carpal tunnel syndrome have become more common. Though they’re mostly associated with computer work, RSIs also can develop from scanning items as a supermarket checker.
Teens can even be at risk for serious dangers, such as injuries from heavy machinery or illness from bacteria or toxic chemicals, depending on the industry they’re working in.
When helping your teen land a part-time position this summer, heed our expert advice on how to minimize these risks.
Questions to ask your working teen
Lots of teens work, especially 15 to 17 year olds. Many are employed in retail operations, including fast-food restaurants and grocery stores, and service industries, such as swimming pools and amusement parks. Other teens opt for entrepreneurial activities, such as babysitting, delivering newspapers and dog walking.
But before your teen gets hired, find out if the job is safe by talking to her and asking questions, such as:
- How did you find out about this job? If your teen got the tip from a trusted adult, you might feel more comfortable with it than a job listed in the classifieds with an unknown company.
- Do you know the people you’re working for? It’s one thing for your 14 year old to babysit for your neighbors and friends. But if you don’t know your teen’s employer, you may want to set up an appointment to meet before your teen accepts the job.
- How many hours will you work? What hours will you work (weekends, after school, school nights)? For the sake of grades and sleep, you and your teen should set limits.
- What protection will you have? If your child is working inside someone else’s home or cleaning up at a restaurant after hours, find out if there’s a security system and lock, as well as easy access to a phone to call 9-1-1 and other emergency numbers.
- Do you have the skills for this job? Age isn’t always the key factor. A 13 year old who babysits for younger siblings may be more qualified for such work than the 16 year old who’s an only child with no experience watching kids. And, if your teen wants to be a lifeguard but isn’t certified, you might steer her toward the snack bar instead.
Questions to ask the employer
You may not have concerns if your teen is working around the neighborhood with people you know, but you may have questions if your child takes a job where you don’t know the people or the environment.
When possible, get references for jobs from the labor department and the Better Business Bureau. Make an appointment to meet with your teen’s potential employer and take a quick tour of the work environment.
Be sure to ask questions, such as:
- What are the specific job responsibilities? Find out if your teen can (legally and physically) or should do what’s expected.
- What sort of training is offered? You should be satisfied that your child is properly trained to handle the job, is never asked to substitute in jobs for which she isn’t trained and that your teen’s coworkers are also trained.
Teens also can benefit from being trained in emergency procedures, such as first aid, CPR and burn treatment. Your teen should know to report any injury to a supervisor immediately — no matter how minor it seems — and to get proper treatment for it ASAP.
- Who’s supervising my child? In some work situations, teens’ direct supervisors may not be much older than they are. So, an immediate boss may not know much more about the work or how to react in an emergency than your teen would.
- What other potential dangers have been addressed? A spokesperson for the Children’s Safety Network provided this good advice: “I know a pizza place that uses Caller ID to confirm the caller’s identity, the address of the delivery and that the order was really placed.” These kinds of practices ensure that your teen is delivering to a legitimate customer and increase safety overall.
- What about working late at night? Many older teens work in late-night establishments like diners, ice-cream shops and all-night groceries. You and your child must discuss the pros and cons of such work. Ask serious questions of the employers: Who’s working with my teen late at night? Is there always an adult there? What security measures are in place? Also, be sure to check with your local police precinct for further suggestions and information.
Don’t stop the dialogue once your teen has been hired. Discuss work regularly and get specifics on the workday, rather than responses like “it’s fine.” By investing time in research before and after she’s hired, your teen can have a fun, worthwhile and safe job experience.
(c) 2016. Article adapted from The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth(R). Used under license.