Workplace injury rates rise during the summer months. When summer rolls around, companies in many sectors, including agriculture and construction, significantly increase production.
Increased road construction raises risks for workers and drivers. Many of the newly hired workers are young and inexperienced, creating a high potential for workplace injuries.
Toiling in the sun is also a leading cause of weather-related injuries, including heatstroke, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion. Heat illnesses occur when the body overheats to the point it cannot cool off, even with sweating.
Too often, young workers enter the workforce with little or no on-the-job safety training, heightening safety risks.
Recently, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries released a report showing that teens are twice as likely to be hurt on the job as adults.
In Washington State, a total of 547 youths aged 17 and under were injured in the workplace in 2014, up nearly 14.7% over the previous year. Of the total, 173 were in the food and hospitality industries. The next largest total, 80, was reported in both the retail trades and agriculture.
Falls to the floor increased 77%, to 55 cases, as the chief cause of injury.
Young workers, aged 14 to 24, have more accidents because they lack the knowledge, training, and experience to prevent them. Some common issues employers encounter with young workers are:
It's also essential for supervisors to recognize the physical, cognitive, and emotional developmental differences between young and adult workers. It takes extra effort to train and supervise seasonal employees on working safely.
Here are some training suggestions:
Heat illness dangers
While there are many excellent resources on dealing with heat, employers need to recognize the individual differences among workers and those who are struggling may be hesitant to complain.
The American Society of Safety Engineers calls heat the "unseen danger" at construction sites because the symptoms of heat illness can be subtle and misinterpreted as mere annoyances rather than signs of a serious health issue.
Workers new to outdoor jobs are particularly vulnerable. Implementing an acclimatization program, providing adequate water and frequent breaks are all critical, but the best way for employers to prevent heat illnesses is to consistently interact with workers to gauge how they're feeling and provide current information on weather conditions.
Also, using apps, such as OSHA's Heat Safety Tool, is a good way for workers to monitor their risk levels.