Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
IN THIS ISSUE: Workplace Chemical Safety and Young Workers
In businesses such as retail, restaurants, groceries, fast food, and agriculture child workers, those under eighteen years of age, are common. Many other industries may use young workers during the summer or vacations. Although there have been few studies on the issue, it is generally believed that children are more likely to suffer work-related health problems. They may be exposed to chemicals and other workplace hazards and are at greater risk of injury. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Children are highly vulnerable to the negative health consequences associated with many environmental exposures. Children receive proportionately larger doses of environmental toxicants than adults, and the fact that their organs and tissues are rapidly developing makes them particularly susceptible to chemical insults.” In addition, they are more susceptible to lead, mercury, and other environmental contaminants.
Other factors include:
- Exposure limits that are recommended for adult workers are not adequate for protecting children.
- Young workers are more likely to have a hearing loss due to exposure to noise. Lower exposure limits may be needed.
- Workplace design and machinery may not consider their physical size and limitations.
- Work hours and rest periods may not be adequate.
- Personal protective equipment may not fit young workers.
- Childrens’ bodies are changing unlike most adults.
- Young workers are not as prepared and experienced as older adults when it comes to identifying and avoiding safety risks and hazards.
- Young workers may believe that they have to try to keep up with older workers and may not have the confidence to speak out if they have a concern.
Federal law establishes certain safety standards and restrictions for young workers. Those under 18 are prohibited from employment in occupations that are hazardous according to the Sectary of Labor and for those under 16 there are many other restrictions. https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/childlabor101.pdf
What employers should use:
- Assign suitable work.Before hiring a young worker, assess the job and what it entails.
- Match the job to the worker. Do not let a young person work alone or perform critical or risky tasks.
- Make time for training.Before young people start work, they must receive effective health and safety orientation and training. It is vitally important that they know the risks of their job and can demonstrate how to minimize those risks.
- Provide suitable personal protective equipment. Make sure it fits the employee.
Important resources include NIOSH’s Youth@Work. It has “Talking Safety curriculum” designed to help educators teach young people the basics of occupational health and safety in a fun, interesting way. The Safety Matters program was jointly introduced in October 2015 by AIHA and NIOSH, and is intended to raise awareness about workplace safety and health.
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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