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Teen worker injury rate 2-3x higher than older workers

May 24, 2023
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Get the latest injury trends and young worker safety strategies

As teenagers across Colorado enter the workforce, in many cases for the first time, we're offering tips for keeping your younger workforce safe, including guidance to teens for choosing a safe summer job.  

Last year, Pinnacol claims data showed more than 500 Colorado workers under 20 were injured or became ill because of their summer jobs.
The most common injury causes for Colorado workers under 20 during the year are:

  1. Cuts
  2. Strains
  3. Striking a fixed object
  4. Being struck by an object
  5. Animals

The data analysis also found that 67% of workplace injuries happened to teens in their first six months of employment, which is an incidence rate double than that for average workers in Colorado. Pinnacol Safety Education and Experience Manager Lori Whitesides thinks this is because teens are inexperienced and typically performing jobs that are not thought of as requiring a lot of training (scooping ice cream, washing dishes or bagging groceries).

As with any employee, thorough onboarding and training for all new hires is an essential piece of an effective safety program to prevent injuries at work. "For many teens, this may be their first job and they don't know how to identify and avoid hazards yet.  Employers should focus on training, mentoring and paring teens with seasoned employees they can learn from," said Whitesides.

Also, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers under 25 years of age are twice as likely as older workers to end up in the emergency room. That makes sense, since the claims data for teens showed mostly acute injuries rather than repetitive-type injuries that develop slowly over time.

Six key ways to help teens prioritize safety

Whitesides stressed that teens should look for jobs that prioritize their safety and shouldn’t feel embarrassed asking about it. "Safety should play a part in searching for and selecting a job.  Teens should ask themselves if they can perform the job duties safely and feel okay asking for training or other safety information to perform safely.  Employers should also empower teens to ask questions and create an environment where they can stop work if needed." Whitesides said teens should look specifically for companies that:

  1. Encourage questions and open communication. As much as possible, teens should feel comfortable asking questions about the job and how to perform duties safely.  
  2. Feature thorough training and onboarding that provide employees with the skills and knowledge to identify hazards.
  3. During the interview process, discuss their safety program and how that program helps remove or reduce job hazards.
  4. Enforce the use of personal protective equipment, like safety glasses, that the job duties require.
  5. Provide plenty of support (rest/hydration breaks, mandatory use of safety equipment) to help teens stay safe.
  6. Prepare for emergency situations so teens know what to do in case of a fire, workplace violence and other dangerous, unexpected situations.

Questions? Contact to reach the largest, most experienced safety staff in Colorado, with 18 safety professionals, ergonomic specialists and certified industrial hygienists.

Don’t forget that policyholders have access to low-cost training programs for employers to create safe working environments for their employees.

Pinnacol Assurance assumes no responsibility for management or control of customer safety activities. Please ensure your business meets the requirements of all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, or ordinances related to workplace safety.

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