MN – A state report found that workers under the age of 18 are “regularly injured” while performing construction work in Minnesota, even though the state prohibits minors from working “on or about” active construction sites.
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, DLI, reviewed the research on occupational injuries and illnesses, which shows youth have an increased risk of work-related injuries, and the research on factors that contribute to that increased risk.
Risk factors identified in the research include:
- The hazardousness of the work youth are assigned to perform and the work environment in which they perform the work.
- Lack of education, training, and experience needed to perform assigned activities and tasks properly and safely;
- Lack of necessary supervision; and
- The level of physical, mental and emotional development of adolescents;
Key developmental attributes are concerning for youth working in construction are:
- Immature musculoskeletal physique;
- Hormonal changes that influence behaviors; and
- A brain that is still in training to perfect balance, coordination and executive functioning.
DLI’s OSHA Division identified the following safety precautions that are responsive to these risk factors:
1. Require training be provided in a controlled environment, using simulator equipment and virtual training when possible;
2. Require OSHA 10-hour safety training, first aid training, and safety and health training that is integrated into the training for specific skills;
3. Require the provision of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure it fits properly and is worn;
4. Establish and require compliance with safety and health rules, including rules that training must be free from distractions, such as cellphones;
5. Ensure individualized attention and supervision by conducting training in small groups and requiring a low ratio of youth to instructors; and
6. Require instructors to be qualified to provide training in the skills to be learned, including how to properly use tools, equipment, machinery, chemicals and materials used in the program, to be trained in occupational safety and health and instructing youth.
According to Finance & Commerce, David Siegel, executive director of Housing First Minnesota, said high school students are already getting valuable experience building houses under the auspices of training programs in some school districts.
In 2017, for example, more than 40 students in the Northeast Metro 916 school district helped build a $306,000, three-bedroom rambler in North St. Paul as part of the district’s construction occupations program.
Between 1999 and 2018, 186 workers between the ages of 16 and 17 filed claims for construction injuries, the report said.
In some cases, the employee was classified as an office worker but suffered injuries consistent with hands-on construction, such as falling off a ladder.
The MN DLI has a full list of teen worker wages, hours, safety, and health.