During one of his many interviews, Alice Cooper, a rock and roll legend, was once asked “What’s the greatest three minutes of your life?” He responded by saying, “There’s two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you’re just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you’re sitting there and it’s like a slow fuse burning.”
This past week marked the end of another school year. As the mother of two young children, I appreciate the joy they experienced knowing that this school year had come to an end. I myself have fond memories of the last day of school and listening to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for Summer.”
With the end of school, comes a time when many teenagers take on summer jobs. It’s a great time for teens to earn some money, gain some independence, learn responsibility, gain interpersonal skills and learn good work habits/ethics. With all the benefits, however, there are some risks associated with any employment opportunity and it is important for young workers to appreciate and understand the risks. According to the American Society of Safety Engineers, nearly 70 teenagers under the age of 18 die from work-related injuries each year while another 77,000 teenage workers suffer serious work-related injuries that require emergency hospital treatment. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention attributes the injuries to the fact that many teenagers work in the restaurant business which includes hazards such as slippery floors and working with knives and cooking equipment. Also at issue is the fact that many teenagers lack experience, lack safety training, and lack the maturity to manage certain situations.
A teenager who suffers a long term injury has the same rights as any other employee. Those rights, however, are limited to their rights under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Like all injured workers, they must report a workplace injury within 30 days from the date they realize they suffer an injury. Failure to report a work-related injury within this very limited period of time will ultimately mean that they would not be entitled to any benefits under the Act. Their related medical bills will not be paid. They will not be entitled to any lost wage benefits.
Hiring young workers can be a win-win situation for teenagers as well as employers. However, it is important for employers’ to take the time to provide a safe work environment, to train its young employees on safety related matters and to oversee young workers to ensure they remain safe on the job.
About the author: Karen Bilodeau is an attorney and partner at the workers’ rights law firm, McTeague Higbee. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 207-725-5581.