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Teens injured at work at a higher rate than older workers

May 22, 2024
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Understand teen injury trends and learn strategies for job selection

As teenagers across Colorado enter the workforce for the summer, in many cases for the first time, it’s a good time for employers to brush up on ways to keep their younger workforce safe.  

As Colorado’s largest workers’ comp carrier, we analyzed our claims history for workers 21 and under. Over the last five years, Pinnacol claims data show an average of 1,200 Colorado teens are injured or become ill because of their summer jobs.

The most common injury causes for Colorado workers 21 and under are:

  • Strains
  • Cuts
  • Getting caught between objects
  • Slips and falls
  • Being struck by an object

Pinnacol also found that 64% of workplace injuries happened to teens in their first six months of employment, which is an incidence rate two to three times higher than that for average workers in Colorado. 

This is likely because teens are typically inexperienced and perform jobs that are not thought of as requiring technical 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. 

Teens don’t yet have years of experience in the workforce and may not be able to identify and avoid hazards that older workers would. It is incumbent upon their employers to address this with training, mentoring and close observation.

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: Claims data for teens showed mostly acute injuries rather than repetitive-type injuries that develop slowly over time.

Teenagers most commonly suffered injuries to their:

  • Fingers
  • Hands
  • Lower back
  • Skull
  • Feet

Teens should look for jobs that prioritize their safety and shouldn’t feel embarrassed asking about it. Once they are on the job, they should know that they have rights and can refuse tasks that seem unsafe or for which they haven’t been properly trained. Employers should value employees who take their personal and co-workers’ safety seriously.

Teens should look specifically for companies that:

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

Pinnacol safety professionals, ergonomic specialists and certified industrial hygienists have produced safety resources and free and low-cost workplace safety training for employers.

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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