By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

The teenage summer job working at the local store is a rite of passage in most communities. Almost everyone has held a summer job at some point in their life.  However, given the disturbing rise in workplace violence, teenagers can be swept up in hostile situations and end up facing down angry, sometimes violent customers.

This has resulted in workplace injuries and even fatalities that have captured the attention of OSHA officials. In a blog last week, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels discussed the importance of training teens at work. Michaels cited to a study that found “that most teens had not been trained on how to respond to shoplifters or other threats of workplace violence.”

The Administrator noted that workers under the age of 25 are twice as likely to be injured on the job as older workers, and are often unaware of their workplace rights. The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health study, which Michaels was citing to, concluded that “this high rate of injury can be explained in part by teens tending to be hired into industries that have a high risk for injury, such as restaurants, and that young workers are often provided insufficient health and safety training.” Emphasis added.

Michaels spelled out in his blog out that teens should receive training about workplace violence — “especially not to chase shoplifters.” Employers should establish workplace violence prevention programs, provide adequate security, including cameras and alarms, and “never allow teens to work alone.” He indicated that employers at risk are retail, food service, maintenance, and other industries teens are likely to hold jobs in.

Employers in these industries should take notice of Michaels’ blog, as we may be certain that his OSHA inspectors may well be looking for these sorts of violations. Review your workplace violence prevention policies, training programs, and safety procedures now to see how they measure up to the Administrator’s stated “adequate” minimums.