Teen Summer Job Safety

OSHA Offers Tips on Protecting Working Teens from Injury in Landscaping

On July 9, 1992, a 16-year-old landscape laborer died as a result of traumatic chest injuries received after being struck by the bucket of a case skid steer loader. A summer hire, the Minnesota youth received training on his primary tasks of preparing yards for sod placement and laying sod. Working around heavy equipment was not part of this training. He was part of a three-man crew assigned to remove a silt fence surrounding a drainage pond. The skid steer loader operator was experienced, but not in the specific procedure at the time of the incident. The company had written safety rules and procedures for positions involving the operation of machinery; none existed for landscape laborers. The loader was on a sloping bank and was being used to take out hard-to-manually remove fence stakes. As the operator lowered the loader bucket, the youth who was standing to the front and side of the loader, slipped and fell under the descending bucket. The youth died in surgery shortly afterwards from his injuries.

Each year, between 60 and 70 teens die from job-related injuries, and about 250,000 young workers sustain work-related injuries and illnesses each year. The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is committed to driving down these numbers. That's the inspiration that drove the agency to launch its Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign recently, a multi-year project to increase awareness about workplace hazards, and provide possible solutions to those hazards, for young workers and their parents. The campaign focuses on industries in which young people are likely to work during their high school and college years. This year the focus is on the landscaping industry.

A summer job in landscaping can be rewarding, but it also can be hazardous. One of those hazards is found in the use of machinery -- such as skid steer loaders, tractors, trucks and chippers. Injuries and illnesses caused by machines include fractures and contusions from being struck by or crushed; cuts, punctures and amputations by sharp parts; and having noise-induced hearing loss.

Consider the following when helping teens understand how to stay safe and healthy while working in the landscaping industry.

Child Labor Laws

  • Federal child labor laws prohibit workers under age 18 from:

    • Operating power-driven hoisting equipment (including forklifts);

    • Operating power-driven circular saws, band saws, and guillotine shears; and

    • Driving a motor vehicle and being an outside helper on a motor vehicle.

  • Federal child labor laws prohibit 14 and 15-year-old workers from operating lawn mowers, lawn trimmers and weed cutters.

Tips for Teens to Avoid Machinery Hazards

  • Do not use any equipment he/she has not been trained to use

  • Use earplugs, or earmuffs, in high noise work areas

  • Use safety glasses, or goggles, when exposed to flying particles

  • Wear appropriate protective clothing, gloves and shoes for the job

  • Do not ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks

  • Use guards and safeguard devices on machinery

  • Never reach into, or perform maintenance on, any equipment that has not been properly shut down and de-energized through lockout/tagout

Look for more OSHA articles focusing on ways teens can identify and prevent other workplace hazards in the landscaping industry.

More Resources Available

For additional information on young workers and the landscaping industry, visit the following links on the World Wide Web:

Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign

Teen Workers Web page

U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration's YouthRules! Web page

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Safety and Health Topic: Young Worker Safety and Health


Safety and Health Information Bulletin
Protecting Young Workers: Prohibition Against Young Workers Operating Forklifts


Safety and Health Topics Page on Landscape and Horticultural Services