Workplace Hazards for Young Workers

Without years of experience on the job, younger workers are often unaware of the risks and hazards present in their place of employment. Every worksite—from an office job to construction work—has certain hazards that young workers should be trained and prepared for. Find worksite-specific hazards and recommendations below.

Grocery or convenience store employees are exposed to certain risks, including heavy lifting, violent crime, repetitive hand motion, and slippery floors.

Food service or fast food work is the first employment for a large number of young workers. These young workers are often exposed to sharp objects, hot cooking equipment, slippery floors, electricity, heavy lifting, and even violent crime. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a number of safety recommendations for safety in restaurant work, which can be found here.

Janitorial, cleanup, and maintenance workers are required to interact with hazardous cleaning chemicals, as well as slippery floors, heavy lifting, electricity, vehicles, and even blood on discarded needles.

Office and clerical workers are exposed to significantly fewer risks than other occupations, but repetitive hand motion, stress, and back and neck strain are certainly a job-related hazard.

Outdoor work requires exposure to the sun, intense heat, pesticides and chemicals, machinery, vehicles, electricity, heavy lifting, and loud noises. OSHA recommends drinking plenty of water and getting rest in the shade at regular intervals to minimize the risk of heat-related health hazards. Find OSHA recommendations for prevention of heat illness here.

Construction workers are typically exposed to more risks than workers in other fields. Young construction workers should be aware of the risks of falls, machines and tools, hazardous materials, confined spaces, falling objects, electricity, heavy machinery and vehicles, and high noise levels. OSHA recommends head and eye protection, protective shoes, hearing protection, lifting, shoveling, and hydration. Find more information about construction and landscaping safety here.

Industry workers must deal with moving equipment, hot equipment, hazardous chemicals, electricity, heat and noise.

Agriculture employs more than 2 million people under the age of 20. Young agriculturalworkers are regularly exposed to machinery, electricity, confined spaces, hazardous chemicals, organic dust, heat, and falling objects. OSHA’s recommendations for safety in agriculture work can be found here.

Young workers are sometimes more at risk for job-related injuries or illnesses due to:

  • Unsafe equipment
  • Inadequate safety training
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youth under 18
  • Pressure to work faster
  • Stressful conditions

The U.S. Department of Labor has determined age limits and restrictions for certain types of hazardous work. Once you turn 18, you are allowed to work any job, hazardous or not; a youth 16 or 17 years old is allowed to perform any non-hazardous job. However, 14- and 15-year olds are limited to certain non-hazardous fields. A 14- or 15-year old is not allowed to work in manufacturing, mining, public utilities, construction or repair jobs, driving a motor vehicle or helping a driver, door-to-door sales, outdoor window washing, and select other fields (as listed here).