Conversations Over Coffee: Young workers, cash and safety

Photo source: CDC

Some of you have heard about my conversations with my 17-year old daughter regarding her workplace responsibility of handling cash and closing the facility alone at night. And many of us at O[yes] (Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition) routinely discuss hazards encountered by young workers, including workplace violence.

I’ve got to admit, though, I’ve been a little surprised how often this topic has come up in my conversations with friends and colleagues, most who have nothing to do professionally with workplace safety. I’ve heard that some parents arrange their evening schedule to be home and available by phone when their teen closes up. Others park outside as closing hour nears to watch from their vehicle. And yet another encouraged her teen to quit the job and look for other work that didn’t require working alone.

So what do we know? We know that it’s less safe to work alone handling money, especially at night. We know that many teens worry about making a big deal to their bosses about what, perhaps to them, is something that “won’t happen to me.”  We know that teens are aware of how tough it is to get a job now, and how lucky they feel to have one. We know that many small businesses face difficult times, particularly now, and may feel they can’t afford to pay two workers for a job that one person can handle.

So what are the options? We know that training on emergencies is important, and many teens report that they haven’t received this. Security cameras, “panic buttons” and other administrative controls are used by some employers. Washington State prohibits minors working in service occupations from working past 8:00 p.m., unless the minor is supervised by a responsible adult employee who is on the premises at all times.

How many employers imagine that workplace violence statistics make an event unlikely enough that they feel comfortable dismissing the concern? How many employers have thought about how high the costs are if such an unthinkable event happens at their business to a young worker?

What do you think? We’d love to hear from you!

More information:

Teens at Work: Facts for Parents and Teens (Washington L&I)
Tips for Safely Employing Young Workers (O[yes])
Parent Tips: Keeping Young Workers Safe (O[yes])