Young Workers

Today, workers under the age of 25 account for about 8 percent of the workforce in construction. While that's a relatively small number, young workers are involved in 23 percent of all construction accidents.

Rate of injuries

For young workers in construction In the construction industry, the rate of injury, though declining, is higher for youth (those aged 15-24) than for workers of other ages.

Young men face biggest risk

Construction tends to attract more young males than young females, so it's not surprising that 95 percent of the young worker accidents in construction happen to young men.

Young construction workers face the highest risk of injury. The most common injury is being struck by an object, which has accounted for 29 percent of all time-loss claims to young workers in this sector between 2005 and 2009. Their injuries are typically cuts and lacerations, bruises and contusions, and punctures and fractures.

Construction can be physically demanding and put workers at risk of overexertion. Over the last five years, overexertion accidents have accounted for 2,070 claims---that's 20 percent of all time-loss claims to young workers in construction. Injuries are most often sprains, strains and tears, traumatic inflammation of muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, and dislocations. Typically, accidents are related to lifting or moving heavy or awkward objects.

With ladders, floor openings, roofs, scaffolds, stairs, and staging platforms, there are multiple fall hazards on a construction site. Over the last five years, approximately 16 percent of all young worker claims in construction (mostly among construction helpers and laborers) are related to falls from elevation. Typically, the accidents result in sprains, strains and tears, fractures, and bruises and contusions. Having a fall protection plan, and sticking to it, is critical if workers are at risk of falling from heights.

Here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Always get proper training on how to complete a job or use equipment properly before you begin the work.
  • You have the right to say 'No' to tasks you feel unsafe doing, such as climbing a ladder or operating a new piece of equipment. Your boss cannot retaliate against you for refusing hazardous work.
  • Look for hazards at work, like slippery floors, hot grease, dangerous machinery or ladders. If you see a hazard or a problem that needs fixing, don't try to do it yourself, ask a supervisor for help.
  • If you are injured at work, even a small cut, be sure to report it. That way you'll be covered by workers' compensation if the problem becomes more serious.

More information on the safety risks for young workers is available on the Washington L&I website.

Questions for Discussion

  • Do we have any young workers on this site?
  • In what ways can we reduce injuries in our young workers?

Presenter tips

  • Pre-read the Toolbox Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
  • Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Toolbox Talk relevant to your job site.
  • Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion.