Educators – Keeping Our Young Workers Safe


By Ricardo R. Olivares, MS-HRM, MAA-OD

South Texas College

As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition February 2017.

Administration, Faculty and Staff at South Texas College have an important role in promoting Safety in the Rio Grande Valley Community. Our objective is to protect young workers from injury by raising community awareness about child labor law protections and workplace health and safety issues.

We know that employers throughout the Valley, the State of Texas, and the Nation as a whole must provide a safe and healthful workplace and comply with Federal standards and requirements to prevent injuries and illnesses. Companies must train new employees on job hazards and safe work practices in a language they understand. Companies must also provide personal protective equipment, PPE’s, to employees that require them.

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The United States has Child Labor Laws that restrict certain types of jobs and hours that youth under 18 must follow. For example, workers under 18 years of age are prohibited from using certain types of equipment, like forklifts. In addition, under federal approval and monitoring, states can develop and operate their own additional job safety and health programs.

As educators, we can help our young Valley workers in many ways. First, we need to understand our responsibilities as role models for our youth. We have the opportunity to speak to a captive audience about safety and health in the workplace and build safety awareness from their first job forward.

Second, as educators, we can explain to students their rights to safety in the workplace, and incorporate the information into our classrooms and other student resource departments. The information gained will benefit students throughout their careers, and, it may be the only safety training they receive before entering the workforce.

Know your rights and responsibilities:

I have the right to a safe and healthy workplace, including training from my employer about anything that could hurt me on the job.

If I am under 18, I am protected from doing many dangerous types of work, and from working too late, too early, or too long.

I have a right to be paid the minimum wage; as of January 1, 2016, that’s $10 per hour in California.

I have a right to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes if I am scheduled for at least a 5-hour shift and to a paid 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours of work.

I have a right to be treated with fairness and respect regardless of my race, color, gender, nationality, and religion.

Most workplace injuries are preventable. Statistics indicate every 6 minutes, somewhere in the U.S., a teenager is injured and sent to the emergency room. We have too many teens dying from their injuries each year. These injuries and deaths can be prevented if we:

Know the laws;

Make sure teens are doing appropriate work;

Make sure teen workers are trained and supervised; and

Help teens learn to ask for help when they need it.

Our youth have unique health and safety challenges. These challenges are impacted by a lack of awareness on rights and responsibilities to health and safety on the job. Targeting young workers through prevention education activities is one of the ways South Texas College is committed to transforming attitudes and behaviors related to young worker safety.

Ricardo R. Olivares, MS-HRM, MAA-OD is the Program Chair – Business Administration (Careers) at South Texas College. He is a Texas Border Business Guest Writer on safety issues. TBB