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Workforce Readiness and Safety


Workforce Readiness

Many teens are injured at work, yet few get any education about workplace safety.

Youth who are informed about workplace safety (including both safe work practices and their legal rights) are more likely to have positive job experiences and less likely to get hurt.

Workers Rights

By law, your employer must provide:

  • A safe and healthful workplace.
  • Training about health and safety, including information on chemicals that could be harmful to your health.
  • Training about what to do in an emergency.
  • Protective clothing and equipment, such as gloves or goggles.
  • Payment for medical care if you get hurt or sick because of your job. You may also be entitled to lost wages.
  • Effective January 1, 2024, the minimum wage increased to $16.00 per hour for all employers. In some cases, employers can pay less than the minimum wage for up to 160 hours of “training” work if you have no previous experience.
  • A 30-minute meal break after no more than 5 hours and a 10 minute rest period after each 4 hours.
  • For more information contact the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
  • You also have a right to:

  • Report safety problems to Cal/OSHA, the state agency that enforces workplace health and safety regulations.
  • Refuse to work if the job is immediately dangerous to your life or health.
  • Join or organize a union.

To work safely you should:

  • Follow all safety rules and instructions.
  • Use safety equipment and protective clothing when needed.
  • Keep work areas clean and neat.
  • Know what to do in an emergency.
  • Report any health and safety hazards to your supervisor.
  • Get help if your supervisor won’t listen or correct an unsafe condition.

What kind of work can teens do?

In California no worker under 18 may:

  • Drive a motor vehicle on public streets as a main part of the job (17-year-olds may drive in a few specific cases.)
  • Drive a forklift or other heavy equipment
  • Use powered equipment like a circular saw, box crusher, meat slicer, or bakery machine
  • Work in wrecking, demolition, excavation, or roofing
  • Work in logging or a sawmill
  • Prepare, serve, or sell alcoholic drinks
  • Work where the teen is exposed to radiation

Also, No one 14 or 15 years old may:

  • Do any baking
  • Cook (except with electric or gas grills that do not involve cooking over an open flame and with deep fat fryers that automatically lower and raise the baskets)
  • Work in dry cleaning or a commercial laundry
  • Do building, construction, or manufacturing work
  • Load or unload a truck, railroad car, or moving belt.
  • Work on a ladder or scaffold

For more information about what work is allowed see the child labor law booklet and summary sheets on the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) website.