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School's out! Injuries to teen workers swell

School's out! Injuries to teen workers swell

As the summer job season approaches and more teens begin looking for work, employers should focus on training and giving them age-appropriate tasks.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is reporting that work-related injuries among the state's teens increased nearly 15% last year. A total of 547 Washington state workers age 17 and under were injured on the job in 2014, a 14.7% increase over the previous year, the department said Thursday in a statement.

“All workers have a right to appropriate training and can refuse work assignments that are unsafe,” the department said in the statement, “In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may perform lighter tasks, such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves. Work assignments for 16- and 17-year-olds can be less restrictive and can include cooking and some landscaping.”

The majority of injuries occurred in the food and hospitality sector, and falls to the floor were among the most common injury causes, according to the department, which is Washington state's monopoly workers comp insurer.

Of the 547 Washington state teens who sustained injuries, 173 worked in the food and hospitality sector, 89 worked in agriculture and fishing, and 80 worked in retail trades, the department said.

“The increase may be in part due to the improving job market,” the department said in the statement, adding that injuries reached a low of 425 in 2011 before increasing in each of the next three years.

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