Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

OSHA reminds employers about duty to keep young workers safe

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 19, 2023

Safety-workerThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a “Young Workers - You have rights!” webpage on its website, compiling regulatory and practical information for employers and workers. As we approach the annual spike in youth employment during the end-of-year Holidays, this provides a timely reminder to focus on the needs and rights of young people in workplaces. The webpage targets information as follows:

  • Young Workers
  • Employers
  • Parents and Educators
  • Real Stories
  • Hazards
  • Resources

The remainder of this note summarizes these materials, focusing on information useful to employers.

What hazards do young employees face?

Although some workplace hazards are general to a workplace, most are associated with specific jobs and tasks. Furthermore, since many young workers are less experienced and many are only temporary, the likelihood of injuries is higher. OSHA’s website reminds that general reasons for young workers’ injuries and illness include the following:

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

OSHA’s website also lists more specific examples of hazards associated with particular types of workplaces and work, with links to resources throughout its website. These include:

  • Retail/Grocery Stores/Convenience Stores - equipment and machinery; heavy lifting; violent crime; repetitive hand motion; slippery floors
  • Food Service/Fast Food - sharp objects; hot cooking equipment; slippery floors; electricity; heavy lifting; violent crime
  • Janitorial/Cleanup/Maintenance - hazardous chemicals; slippery floors; heavy lifting; blood on discarded needles; electricity; vehicles
  • Office/Clerical - repetitive hand motion (e.g., computer work); back and neck strain; stress
  • Outdoor Work - exposure to the sun; heat; landscape hazards (plants, animals, etc.); pesticides and chemicals; machinery and vehicles; electricity; heavy lifting; noise
  • Construction – falls; machines and tools; hazardous materials; confined space; electricity; struck-by; vehicle back-over; noise
  • Industry - moving equipment; hot equipment; hazardous chemicals; electricity; heat; noise

(I’ve discussed many of these requirements in previous notes, including warehouse worker protections HERE).

What are employers’ responsibilities?

The Occupational Safety and Health Act and OSHA standards require requires employers to reduce or minimize workplace hazards and to train employees how to work safely.  These general responsibilities apply fully to young workers. In addition, the OSH Act and other labor laws may apply additional requirements for young workers, including:

  • Requirements for temporary workers (I’ve written about OSHA requirements HERE, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Guidance HERE)
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and OSH Act protections for young workers (which I discussed HERE)

OSHA also reminds employers that young workers may not just be “little adults,” and puts particular emphasis on training and mentoring, oversight, and encouragement of the workers to ask questions and remain mindful of the hazards inherent in their workplace activities.

What happens next?

This OSHA reminder is not accompanied by any new requirements, but is intended to ensure employers’ awareness of and attention to hazards faced by young workers, and the employers’ responsibilities to manage these hazards. Since youth employment spikes during the winter holidays, this is a good time for organizations to review their activities.

Self-Assessment Checklist

Does the organization employ any temporary workers?

  • If so, are any of these workers young (particularly any younger than 18)

Does the organization have any activities that would constitute “oppressive child labor” if any employee is younger than the minimum age defined by FLSA and Department of labor regulations?

Does the organization employee any regular or temporary workers in activities to which FLSA/regulations restrict the hours a young employee can work?

Does the organization ensure that all young workers, including temporary workers, receive necessary training and oversight?

Where Can I Go For More Information?

  • OSHA

- Employer Responsibilities for Keeping Young Workers Safe web page 

  • DOL

- Youth & Young Worker Employment webpage

- Press release, US Department of labor seeks nationwide court injunction to stop Packers Sanitation Services’ “Oppressive Child Labor” violations at processing facilities (11/9/22) 

About the Author

jon_f_elliottJon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 30 years. 

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at:

Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Safety and Health at Work, workplace safety