IR #2003-4
Monday, May 5, 2003

Dean Fryer
Susan Gard

Governor Davis proclaims May Safe Jobs for Youth Month
Young workers learn to prevent job injuries and disabilities by attending job safety workshops

San Francisco - Safe Jobs for Youth Month, proclaimed by Governor Davis, focuses on preventing young workers from being injured on the job by offering interactive workshops, job safety resources and a Lewis Hine child labor photograph exhibit.

Thousands of young workers - 14 to 18 - begin jobs this summer in California working in many industries: food service, grocery stores, construction, agriculture, customer service and retail. Jobs allow California youth to earn money and create positive work experiences. Unfortunately, these jobs can involve injury and disability if young workers are not informed of the many job hazards.

"I was an assistant at an auto body repair shop when I was 15. I was exposed to hazardous chemicals without protection, I didn't receive minimum wage, and I worked too long and late on school nights," says Juan Garcia, now a college student. "If I knew what my rights were then, I would have talked to my employer," says Garcia.

Programs such as UCLA's Labor Occupational Safety and Health and UC Berkeley's Labor Occupational Health Program provide job safety classes for high school students, teaching them how to avoid hazardous working conditions, safety on the job and worker rights.

"Jobs are a great way for young people to gain valuable experience and income," says Chuck Cake, acting director of the California Department of Industrial Relations. "Young workers, employers and parents also need to be instructed on job safety and how to prevent workplace injuries. California's labor, safety and health laws protect young workers," Cake added.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that every year 200,000 young workers are injured on the job, with 70,000 injured seriously enough to go to the emergency room. Many young workers don't question their employer's business practices for fear of losing their jobs.

"I felt I was just lucky to be working at 15," says Kim Hansen, a student whose education around work issues changed dramatically when she enrolled in an Outside Work Experience class in high school.

"Young workers should enter the workforce knowing they'll get health and safety training, and ask for it if they don't," says Diane Bush of UC Berkeley's Labor Occupational Health Program, a coordinator of Safe Jobs for Youth Month. "This is a chance to help young workers develop safety skills that will last a lifetime. They should be learning to take responsibility for problems they see and know it's okay to talk with their boss."

Potential hazards facing young workers:

Safe Jobs for Youth month workshops:

Safe Jobs for Youth is a collaborative effort by the California Partnership on Young Workers' Health and Safety, California Department of Industrial Relations, Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley, State Compensation Insurance Fund, California Association of Work Experience Educators, United Food and Commercial Workers, UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program, PTA, New Ways to Work, WORKSAFE!, State Compensation Insurance Fund, California Teachers Association, California Chamber of Commerce.


Editors note: Interviews with young workers can be arranged.