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Safety & OSHA Compliance

Good Visual Cues Improve Safety for Teens, Temps and Summer Staff

You’re 17 and it’s your first day on the first “real” job you’ve ever had.

You’ve snagged a great summer job – working in an air-conditioned distribution warehouse 40 hours a week at $10 an hour. That’s way more than you were making doing lawns in the 100 degree heat. You’re going to be rich! You’ve crunched the numbers, and you should have enough for your dream car by the end of the summer.

It’s a pretty easy job – helping the quality assurance team in the mail room. It’s kind of boring, but $10 an hour.

You’re nervous, but excited as you park your parents’ extra car (an embarrassing 15-year-old minivan) in the company parking lot. As you get closer to the main entrance of the warehouse, you try to remember exactly where you were supposed to go on your first day….human department? Resources something? There’s no one sitting at the front desk. You wait a few minutes, then decide to venture through the warehouse to the office you remember sitting in when signing your paperwork a few weeks ago.

As you open the door, it’s loud. You hear beeping, the whir of the heavy fans keeping the cool air circulating and the clank of heavy machinery. You think to yourself that this really looks big. And confusing. And what’s with all these stripes on the floor? Some are green, some are yellow…..WHOA! A forklift beeps loudly and screeches to a stop about a foot from where you’re standing. Maybe this isn’t going to be as easy as it looks.

Having safety signs and visual cues are essential for keeping employees safe and increasing productivity. While the floor tape in the above story is an acceptable cue for those with safety training and experience on the plant floor, for a seasonal, temporary or new employee just walking on the floor, they were not effective.

Watch For Forklifts SignStop-Painting director Cliff Lowe, an advocate for visual organization cues in the workplace, says instead of just putting color-coded stripes on the floor, make it even more visual. “Put a graphic or photo of people walking on the white stripes for pedestrians. Put a graphic of a forklift on the yellow stripes, so employees clearly understand what the stripes mean. Having better safety cues can cut down on injuries,” said Lowe.

According to OSHA and NIOSH, in 2015, there were approximately 19.1 million workers younger than 24 years of age, and these workers represented 13% of the workforce. Young workers have high occupational injury rates which are in part explained by a high frequency of injury hazards in workplaces where they typically work (restaurant settings associated with slippery floors and use of knives and cooking equipment).

Inexperience and lack of safety training may also increase injury risks for young workers. And, for the youngest workers, those in middle and high schools, there may be biologic and psychosocial contributors to increased injury rates, such as inadequate fit, strength, and cognitive abilities to operate farm equipment such as tractors.

In  2015, 403 workers 24 years old and younger died from work-related injuries, including 24 deaths of youth less than 18 years of age. For the 10 year period 1998 to 2007, there was an annual average of 795,000 nonfatal injuries to young workers treated in U.S. hospital injury departments. The rate for emergency department-treated occupational injuries of young workers was approximately two times higher than among workers 25 years and older.

The U.S. Public Health Service has a Healthy People objective to reduce rates of occupational injuries treated in emergency departments among working adolescents 15-19 years of age by 10% by 2020, from the 2007 rate of 4.9 injuries per 100 full-time equivalent workers.

For over 20 years, the Teens at Work: Injury Surveillance and Prevention Project at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has tracked work-related injuries to teens under age 18.

Some interesting facts from the Teens at Work data:

  • The majority of injuries were among 17-year-olds.
  • Male teens accounted for more work-related injuries than females. 2.3 males were injured per 100 full-time workers versus 1.5 female injuries per 100 workers.
  • Open wounds accounted for 51 percent of injuries and sprains were the most common injury cited on worker compensation claims by teens.

The Teens at Work Project staff interviewed 229 teens injured between 2008 and 2012. The most alarming piece of data to come from these interviews was the fact that 46 percent of those teens included in the study said they had received no safety training. Also, 53 percent of the injured teens believed their injury could have been prevented.

Safety Glasses & Ear Plugs Required SignVisual cues are the perfect safety products to keep all employees safe – especially summer/seasonal and teen employees. In fact, the current population of teens has been expertly trained to read signs and cues. In fact it’s their favorite way to communicate. Emoticons and emojis  are used generously and profusely by most teens.

And one look at a teen’s phone screen, will prove teens are adept at organizing via visual cues. Icon boxes (the digital equivalent of visual cues) designate Snapchat, Kik, Instagram, Twitter and a plethora of apps that are quick and easy for teens to operate.

Are you hiring teens this summer? Are there hazards in your workplace you need them to pay attention to? There is no better way to communicate with this group of employees than with visual cues. In fact, it’s how they prefer to communicate. Check out our safety signs, use our online custom sign tool or contact us to help create a safety sign for you. is a leading manufacturer of indoor and outdoor marking tapes and signs. helps facility and safety managers create more productive and safer workplaces by communicating with visual devices and visual cues.

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