Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Monday, May 24, 2004

Teen Safety Diaries

Every year about 70 teens die from work injuries in the United States. Another 70,000 get hurt badly enough that they go to a hospital emergency room.

Federal Agencies Launch Effort to Help Teen Workers Stay Safe and Healthy on the Job this Summer


I have a friend in Massachusetts who found this left on the computer from a friend of his daughter.


Dear Diary:

Hi. My name is Tina Cheepleighbor. I started my new job yesterday as a life guard. A bunch of us kids have gotten jobs during the last few weeks, trying to make enough money for college next year.

Before we started, our principal, Mr. Johnson showed us this neat new webpage -- the OSHA TeenWorkers web site -- and told us to check it before we go to work every day so that we can find out how to stay healthy and safe at work. He said our motto should be "OSHA, never leave home without it!"

I like being a lifeguard and watching out for the kids. And it's not too hard and doesn't seem too dangerous. The OSHA site warns against drowning (hello?) and sunburn (well duh!) as well as parasites caused by fecal accidents or diarrhea in the pool (yecch!).

The only problem I had the first day was when my boss, Joey (he'd be cute except for his beer belly) told us to go mix some chemicals to put in the pool. They made my throat hurt and eyes burn, but he said don't worry, it will go away. He was right. I feel fine now. Except that my hands are all dried out and I have this funny taste in my mouth. Maybe I should see if they have any gloves tomorrow.

Then he told us we couldn't go home until we collected all the twigs and sticks that fell off the trees during the storm the other night and tossed them into the mulcher.

That made me a bit nervous because I just read about a kid who fell into a mulcher and died. Bummer.


Before work I stopped in at the TeenWorkers web site again. I couldn't find anything about swimming pool chemicals. Oops, here it is. (My ritalin must be wearing off) I'm also trying to find something about that mulcher. The Parks and Recreation page only has stuff about clean drinking water and parasites (what is it with these people and fecal contamination anyway?) and boating safety. I did finally find something about not being allowed to work with saws and power tools.

Hmm, I wonder what to do when I find out they're making me do something I shouldn't be doing? It took me the longest time to find out, but finally, way, way way down at the bottom of the For Teen Workers page I found a link to "Do You Know Your Rights?"

It says that I should talk to my employer about any safety problems I might have and if he doesn't do something I can just call OSHA or refuse to do the work.


And I surfed around a little more and found a neat California website from the Labor Occupational Health Program in Berkeley that says I even have the right to join a union!

I can hardly wait to get to work tomorrow and talk to Joey.

Better get to bed. It's storming out there. Probably have more mulching to do tomorrow. And it's taken me so long to find stuff on this web page that my wrists are starting to hurt. I wonder what that's all about?

Monday (Memorial Day)

Got to work early today. Sure enough, Joey told us to go gather the fallen branches from the storm and throw them into the mulcher.

I showed him the stuff I downloaded last night about how we weren't supposed to be doing that kind of stuff. He said those were just dumb government rules that treat everyone like sissies. The mulcher was perfectly safe as long as we were careful.

I told him about the part where the website said I should refuse to work and call OSHA. He thought that was pretty funny -- for a while. Then he told me to get to work or get out. I asked him if he knew where there was a union I could join.


Starting to look for a job again today.

Billy's got a job tearing down walls in the school, but it sounds too dusty. At least there's no danger of fecal contamination.


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