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With school soon ending, many teens will be on the hunt for summer jobs. While work can provide many benefits to youth besides making money—opportunities to take on new responsibilities, learn job skills, explore future careers—it can also pose health and safety risks.

Perhaps you’ve noticed our Safe Jobs for Youth Poster Contest ad up on the MBTA, or on GATRA buses if you live or work in the Greater Attleboro-Taunton region. It reads: “200,000 young workers are injured annually [nationwide]. Don’t be a statistic: Learn more about teen safety in the workplace.”

Poster for Teen Safety on T
Contest poster on the MBTA’s Orange Line.

The message and design, developed by 16-year-old contest winner Shari Coté, illustrates the past 20 years of action by the Teens at Work Project here at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health: using data to guide intervention and help others understand why young worker health and safety is such an important issue.

Every year in Massachusetts, an average of nearly 600 teens go to the emergency department for work-related injuries and over 140 file workers’ compensation claims because they were injured badly enough to miss five or more work days. And those are only the injuries that get reported.

Our recently published report, “Teens at Work: Injury Surveillance Update, Spring 2013” provides an overview of these work-related injuries, as well as a closer look at the surveillance system that identifies the injuries and how this data continues to make a difference.

While the contest poster’s message primarily targets youth and their need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities on the job, the ultimate responsibility for protecting our working teens rests on employers to provide workplaces free of known hazards, health and safety training, and adequate supervision for young workers. Educators, parents, and other adults who play a role in youth employment and the healthy development of teens also play a critical part in this effort.

To learn more about how to help keep young workers safe, view our many educational materials in multiple languages, including the Child Labor Laws, Employer Tips, Parent Guide, and our new workplace Sexual Harassment Curriculum for teachers.

Here’s to healthy, safe summer jobs for our Massachusetts teens, and for teens nationwide.

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