Employers must keep staff, including teens, safe

Dear Working Wise,

My 14-year-old son wants to get a part-time job at our nearby hardware store while he’s in school. I want him to learn the value of work, but I’m worried about his safety. How soon is too soon for him to work? Signed, Anxious Parent.

Dear Anxious:

A part-time job is a great way for students to earn some extra pocket money, save for post-secondary and find out that money really doesn’t grow on trees.

It can also teach valuable teamwork, time-management and interpersonal skills.

Working does carry risks, no matter how careful workers and employers are. And new workers are more likely to be injured than those with more experience.

Employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe for all workers, which includes providing safety training. Workers are responsible for working safely.

You can keep your son safe at work by educating him. The young workers section of the Occupational Health and Safety website, found at work.alberta.ca/ohs-youngworkers, features educational safety videos targeted at younger workers.

It also offers information for parents, including two helpful tip sheets:

Seven Things You Better Know

Your Child At Work

You know your son best, and you know how much responsibility he can handle. Use your best judgment when deciding when and where your son starts working.

One thing that might help ease your mind is that Alberta Employment Standards legislation includes provisions to ensure young workers are only allowed to work in jobs that have a low risk of harm.

For adolescents who are at least 12 but not yet 15 years old, parents or guardians must give the employer written consent to allow their kids to work. The job must also carry no risk of injury to their life, health, education or welfare.

Adolescents are limited to working as a:

– clerk or messenger in an office;

– clerk in a retail store;

– delivery person of small items for a retail store;

– delivery person (e.g., newspapers, flyers, handbills); or

– certain food-service occupations (e.g., host/hostess, cashier, dishwasher, busser, etc.)

Certain food-service occupations (e.g., host/hostess, cashier, dishwasher, busser, etc.) are covered by an adolescent work permit for that industry, issued by the Director of Employment Standards. A safety checklist must be completed and submitted to Employment Standards prior to the adolescent commencing work.

A permit is required for other occupations. Before granting a permit, the employer must complete a written application. Information about adolescent permits, applications and safety checklists is available at work.alberta.ca/adolescentpermits.

Employment Standards will not issue a permit for a worker under the age of 15 to work in any occupations in the construction industry or in occupations requiring them to work around or with heavy or potentially hazardous equipment such as conveyors, welding equipment, torches, fryers, hot grills, and slicers.

For workers aged 15 to 17, Employment Standards does not impose restrictions on the type of employment, but there are restrictions to the hours of work and the level of supervision required. For more information, visit http://work.alberta.ca/employment-standards/employees-under-age-18.html

NOTE – A number of changes to Alberta’s Employment Standards Code that affect youth employment will take effect on January 1, 2018. See https://www.alberta.ca/employment-standards-changes.aspx for full details.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services. This column is provided for general information.

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