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Massachusetts Teen Workers Are Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

As summer approaches, many teens are thinking about getting a job for the summer if they do not have one already. According to official employment statistics, more than one third of 16 and 17 year olds in Massachusetts, or over 50,000 teens, are employed at any given time. In the summer of 2011, over 4,700 Massachusetts teens worked through summer jobs programs.

Although they can present significant benefits, jobs can also pose health and safety risks to teen workers. About 230,000 teens under age 18 are injured on the job in the United States each year. Of these, over 75,000 are injured so badly at work that they need to be treated in the emergency room. In fact, teens experience on the job injuries much more often than adults do. Every year, approximately 70 working teens in the United States are killed. Work-related injuries to teens in Massachusetts are tracked by the Department of Public Health’s Teens at Work Injury Surveillance and Intervention Project (TAW). From 1993-2003, there were more than 5,500 work-related injuries to Massachusetts teens.

Three teens were killed on the job between 2005-2009. One was crushed by a pickup truck that fell off a lift in his father’s auto repair shop. Another was electrocuted while helping his father dismantle a scaffold. Another fell 23 feet in a roofing accident. Common injuries include cuts and sprains.

Also between 2005-2009, there were 241 injuries to 15-17 years olds in the restaurant industry, 136 injuries to 15-17 year olds who worked at grocery stores, 64 injuries to 15-17 year olds who worked in nursing care, 29 injuries to 15-17 year olds working in construction, and 34 injuries to 15-17 year olds working in recreation.

Like their adult counterparts, teen workers are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits when they are injured on the job. They are also protected from retaliation if they encounter unsafe working conditions and report those conditions to their employer or OSHA. Teens who were injured at work between 2005-2009 and were interviewed claimed these common elements of their injuries: no supervisor onsite, no work permit, no safety training, preventability, and permanent effects.

If you are a parent of a teen who wants to work, you should talk with your teen about his or her worker rights and safety on the job, even if the job is a family business. From 1992-2000, more than 30% of all fatal injuries to young workers in the United States occurred in family businesses. As noted above, teens in Massachusetts have been killed while working for their parents.

There are child labor laws that protect teens from having to perform dangerous tasks and limit the number and type of hours a teen may work. Teens who work late at night, for example, may be sleepier during the day, which can not only affect schoolwork, but also affect their ability to do their jobs safely. Teens who work in agricultural jobs face special risks for injuries; there are guidelines available for parents to use in determining whether a teen is ready for a particular agricultural task or farm chore.

If you or your teenager has suffered an injury in the workplace, we can help you resolve the legal issues that arise in this context. If you are concerned about an employer’s workers’ compensation coverage, ask the experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates what you should do. Call us at 617-367-0880 or contact us via our online form.

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