The Subcommittee Confronts Young Workers’ Safety
December 2, 2011
By Assemblyman Rory Lancman Chair, Subcommittee on Workplace Safety
The Subcommittee on Workplace Safety recently investigated a critical issue facing young workers: their occupational safety and health. A memo issued by the Subcommittee last month indicated that young workers face a high rate of workplace injury and illness as compared with adult workers.
According to a report released by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, nationally between 1998 and 2007, 7.9 million young workers between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five suffered injuries on the job that were treated in hospital emergency rooms. During that same time period, 5,719 workers in that age group were fatally injured while at work. Workers in this age group are twice as likely as older workers to be injured on the job.
In order to address the full scope of this issue, the Subcommittee teamed up with the Assemblyman Keith Wright, Chair of the Labor Committee to host a round table discussion on "The High Rate of Non-Fatal Job Related Injuries Involving Young Workers.” Assemblyman Sam Roberts also participated, along with representatives from the New York State Labor Department, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United Federation of Teachers and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The Subcommittee identified three areas that needed further investigation: 1) training and education, 2) record keeping and injury and illness reporting and 3) prohibited occupations for minors.
Round table participants agreed that the issues identified in the Subcommittee’s background memo warranted further inspection and remedy. Current training and education, record keeping and reporting do not adequately protect young workers from injury on the job. Young workers lack the necessary safety and health training before joining the workforce, and although students enrolled in Career and Technical Education programs for specialized trade industries often receive thorough specialized safety training, young workers in food service and retail often do not receive adequate training.
The round table participants also discussed the working papers system for minors. The current system is too decentralized for agencies to perform useful oversight of the working conditions for minors. Round table participants discussed the need to explore instituting a centralized electronic working papers database, as currently in place in states such as Georgia and Hawaii.
For young workers in varying stages of maturity and development, the workplace can be a source of independence and similar income. It should not, however, place a young person at risk of injury and illness.