TRAINING YOUNG PEOPLE FOR THE WORKPLACE BY AUTUMN HEISLER
Inexperience and high turnover rates among youth workers are safety risks. Employers
must continue to seek out training methods to prevent injury.
Every year, an average of 795,000 young people are treated for work-related injuries. CDC statistics how 403 teens died in
2016. So, what are employers — and
their insurers — doing to keep young
workers safe on the job?
First, look at where teens are in the
working world. Forty-eight percent
work in the leisure and hospitality
industry (restaurants and other
food service jobs), 21 percent are
employed in retail and 9 percent are in
educational and health services.
Youth work-related injuries are
highest in the leisure and hospitality
sector, accounting for 38 percent of
reported injuries and illnesses among
this age group. Strains, sprains, burns,
cuts, slips, falls — the food industry
sees them all.
“Burns and cuts are the most
common,” said Julie Nester, risk and
claims manager for the Jack in the Box
“We see a good amount of sprains,
TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING
too, from people lifting things that are
heavy or awkward.”
Accidents and injuries can be
prevented with proper training,
steadfast dedication to safety and
knowing what teen workers can and
cannot do while on the clock.
While young adults and teens
make up a fairly small portion of the
workforce, many state laws require
additional workers’ compensation
protection for minors, with some
states doubling workers’ compensation
The leading cause of injuries to
young workers is improper training.
“A lot of the time, young workers
have limited hours, so it takes a bit
to get them through training,” said
Nester. But in the end, it’s worth it.
Well-trained employees are more
efficient, said Nicholaos S. Galakis,
managing director of loss control for
Restaurant Programs of America,
LLC, a full-service insurance
agency focused exclusively on the
The injury rate for younger
workers is two times higher than for
workers over age 25.
Emergency room data shows an
average of 795,000 youth are treated
each year for non-fatal work-related
injuries, accounting for nearly one
third of all similar injuries throughout
“A simple laceration with minimal
medical treatment is still a claim and
can cost up to $500,” Galakis said. “A
laceration that needs stitches could
be anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000.
If the laceration is severe, like it cut
a tendon … that could be upwards of
$25,000 to $30,000 — and that’s just
“I’ve seen burns up to half a million
dollars,” he continued.
“So it’s important for any employer
to really train new employees. Train
them and have them follow somebody
with experience. A day, a week,
whatever is warranted — train them.
No matter how much you train, [the
employee] should see how it’s done
before they do it themselves.”
UTILIZING MODERN TECH
Technology, forever a growing
industry, acts as a means to
communicate with and train new
employees. In a LinkedIn article,
David Beach, chief human resource
officer at Wilbanks Trucking Services,
wrote, “Technology offers ease of
use, learning retention, dissemination
of information, the ability to
reinforce learning, employee training
convenience and a reduced impact on
With technology, said Galakis, “we
can have a five- to 10-minute training
module that’s customizable for each
operation. It’s faster and easier to show
a trainee a video of what needs to be
done. And after, we can monitor to
see if they understood the training
After serving in risk management
for nearly 30 years, Galakis has seen
just how technology changed the way
safety training is provided.
However, he cautioned, “just
because an employee was in front of
a screen for 15 minutes doesn’t mean
they get everything.”
Within most food service
industries, video clips and follow-up
questions act as the primary means of
technological training. In fast food,
Nester noted, the hands-on approach
is most effective.
Still, more employers are tapping
into tech. In fact, thanks to the ever-growing industry, employers have a
golden opportunity to create training
methods that better suit a generation
growing up alongside technology.
Nationwide Mutual Insurance
Company, for instance, has created an
app-based model for training.
Grain cooperatives, one sector
of agribusiness, incur millions of
dollars’ worth of losses for workers’
compensation claims each year.
Nationwide found losses stemming
from grain elevators doubled from $10
million in 2009 to almost $20 million
Young workers — the “iPhone
generation,” as Jason Berkland, senior
consultant with Nationwide’s Risk
Management Services, called them
— have a proclivity for technology.
Berkland said that he found young
workers more likely to turn to their
cell phones for answers to training
questions than they would turn to a
supervisor or co-worker.
With this in mind, Nationwide
developed Hazard Spotter SM, a
grain cooperative training app
for smartphones, to better train
employees and reduce claim costs.
The app takes employees through
three levels of training: housekeeping,
preventative maintenance and hot
work. Users receive a score based
on the completion of the tasks, their
ability to properly document each task
and their ability to identify hazards
and use proper equipment.
“You’re not running around
as someone else,” Berkland said,
describing the first-person layout and
design of the app.
“It’s your hands grabbing the tools.”
RETENTION AND TURNOVER
Turnover rates in the hospitality
and leisure industry topped 70 percent
for the second consecutive year in
2016. Many call the employee rotation
“cyclical,” saying the teen worker
population grows each summer and
shrinks when school is in session.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports
that, as of 2015, 27 percent of
restaurant employees are enrolled in
Compounding the problem, the
current generation of young workers
are more prone to hop from job to job.
“Millennials tend to leave jobs a
lot sooner if they don’t like what they
see,” said Galakis.
“Turnover rate is high, nearly 65
percent for the fast food sector of the
restaurant industry. The company is
spending time and money on hiring
and training, then losing employees.”
The high turnover rate of all
employees, regardless of age, affects
injury and illness, because the new
employees are inexperienced, he said.
“The only way to affect turnover
rates is to have higher compensation
or add other incentives, and not every
employer can do that.”
One way to combat turnover would
be “to ensure we are hiring the right
people for the job and taking the
time to properly train and engage
new employees in the company’s
culture. Turnover is high; the longer
we can keep an employee, the more
experience they have to teach the
younger ones,” Nester said. &
Nick Galakis, managing director of loss
control, Restaurant Programs of America
Younger workers tend to hop from job to
job, making them harder to train safely.