Resource Newsletter
December 2012

Ask Technical: How can young workers approach safety issues on the job?

Q: I teach a workplace safety course at a community college. Increasingly, the issue comes up in class about what a young person can do to advocate safer working conditions. It's not uncommon for my students to be asked or required to work under unsafe conditions with the threat of being intimidated, scapegoated, bullied, or fired if they do not get the job done.

Can you suggest an effective way for young workers to advocate safer conditions for themselves and others at work?

A: The most effective way for young workers to advocate safer working conditions is to know and exercise their rights under the law. Young workers are protected by the same laws that protect older workers — laws that cover minimum wage, overtime hours, paydays, and workplace safety.

Advice for every young worker who begins a new job:

If you feel that you're in danger when you're working, you probably are. If you're worried about a hazard or getting hurt on the job, tell your supervisor. If you're worried about being intimidated or fired, contact the nearest Oregon OSHA office to report the hazard.

Don't put up with threats and intimidation on the job: If you think that your employer or supervisor will punish you because you're concerned about working conditions, that's discrimination and it's against the law. You can file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).

Important phone numbers: