young man working at coffee shop

Summer is here, and with it come summer jobs and young worker safety campaigns and enforcement blitzes. It’s the season of young worker safety.

For many of our families here at Threads of Life, including mine, it’s personal. We know the horrific reality following a young worker fatality or a traumatic, life-altering injury. We also have family members whose loss occurred years later from disease caused by exposure to carcinogens at summer jobs.

Summer jobs are meant to be – and are – rewarding opportunities to learn what it means to join the workforce. To learn new skills and gain experience you will need as you navigate your future career path. Unfortunately, we also know that a summer job can also come with a heartbreakingly high price tag when safety is not at the forefront of the job.

The awareness is here. It’s alive and has been building steadily now for more than a decade. There are ample training resources readily available – including print and online training materials, ad campaigns, videos, and young workers and their families — such as many in our speakers bureau — who are sharing their compelling personal testimony.

And yet, every year, young workers are injured and killed on the job. (Just in the past few weeks: here and here and here.)

And every time, we ask ourselves, “What more can we do?!”

We can listen. To young workers’ questions. We listen to their concerns. Even the questions they’re hesitant to ask and the concerns they aren’t sure how to raise. We keep listening.

We can talk. And keep talking. Talking about health and safety and how important it is. Rights and responsibilities. Hazard recognition. The importance of following safety procedures. The importance of asking questions. We keep talking because it keeps the conversation going: with youth, with parents, with teachers, and with employers. We keep talking because they’re listening.

We share our stories. Outlining the hole left in our lives when a young worker comes home with a life-altering, disabling injury. When a young worker doesn’t come home at all. When a hazard they’re exposed to at work changes the entire course of their life or ends it entirely. Because they’re not just sad stories. They’re devastating realities that too many workers and families are living with. We share our stories because we don’t want anyone to live the nightmare we’ve lived.

We keep going. Because instilling safety as a value in our society starts with our youth. Equipping them with the tools to protect themselves and each other, is not just an investment in their own personal well-being, it’s also an investment in the future. Tomorrow’s foremen, CEO’s and policy-makers need us to keep going.

So let’s ante up. Because no job, no paycheck, no résumé-rounding experience is worth your life. We know this.


What are you doing to protect the health and safety of young workers? Let us know how you’re working to make a difference in the comments below.


Are you interested in writing for the Threads of Life blog? We welcome guest bloggers. Please read our blog guidelines.  

Sarah Wheelan