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For Employers

Your teen employees are the next generation of workers in the U.S. The teens you hire develop personal skills that make them more likely to go on to further their education and succeed in life. As you hire these young people, know that you do make a difference. Educating them about professional standards, workplace health and safety, rights on the job, and how to communicate effectively will shape the workplaces of the future as well as keep your business running smoothly. Measures you take to keep teens safe will help protect all employees.

In particular, teens get hurt when:

  • They take on jobs for which they're not trained
  • They don't have appropriate supervision
  • They work with dangerous equipment

This website can help you prevent injuries by providing you with important information on key California child labor and health and safety laws, training tips, and other steps employers can take.

Facts for Employers, Safer Jobs for Teens

Follow the links below to find out what you can do as an employer to keep teens safe.

Six Steps to Safer Teen Jobs

What Work Does the Law Prohibit Teens From Doing?

What Hours May Teens Work in California?

Ideas From Employers

Compliance Checklist for Employers

How Can I Hire Teens From a Training Program?

For information and help about health and safety see Resources and Links.


Six Steps to Safer Teen Jobs

1 Know the laws
2 Check Your Compliance
  • Make sure teen employees are not assigned work schedules or asked to do job tasks that violate the law, or given prohibited job tasks like operating heavy equipment or using power tools.
  • See later sections of this factsheet for more information.
3 Make Sure Teens Have Work Permits.
  • Workers under 18 must apply for work permits at their school district office before beginning a new job. Work permits are not required for those who have graduated from high school or passed the high school equivalency exam.
4 Stress Safety to Frontline Supervisors.
  • Make sure frontline supervisors who give teens their job assignments know the law.
  • Encourage supervisors to set a good example. They are in the best position to influence teens' attitudes and work habits.
5 Set Up a Safety and Health Program.
  • Make sure all jobs and work areas are free of hazards. The law requires you to provide a safe and healthy workplace.
  • Under Cal/OSHA regulations, every workplace must have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Involve every worker in the program, including teens.
  • Find out if there are simple low-cost safety measures that can prevent injuries.
6 Train Teens To Put Safety First.
  • Give teens clear instructions for each task, especially unfamiliar ones. Provide hands-on training on the correct use of equipment. Show them what safety precautions to take. Point out possible hazards. Give them a chance to ask questions.
  • Observe teens while they work, and correct any mistakes. Retrain them regularly.
  • Encourage supervisors to take teen workers along on periodic health and safety walk-through inspections to spot hazards and unsafe practices.
  • Encourage teens to ask questions and to let you know if there's a problem or directions are unclear. Make sure teens feel free to speak up.
  • Prepare teens for emergencies-accidents, fires, violent situations, etc. Show them escape routes and explain where to go if they need emergency medical treatment.
  • Supply personal protective equipment when needed-goggles, safety shoes, masks, hard hats, gloves, etc. Be sure teens know how to use it.

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What Work Does the Law Prohibit Teens From Doing?

The list below gives key examples of restrictions. There are other restrictions depending on the specific industry and the worker's age. There are limited exemptions for youth under 18 who are in apprenticeship and student-learner programs. Refer to the complete handbook describing all California child labor laws.


In California no worker under 18 may:

  • Drive a motor vehicle on public streets as part of the job, or as an outside helper on a motor vehicle.
  • Operate power-driven machinery:
    • Meat slicers
    • Bakery machines (including dough mixers)
    • Box crushers/compactors
    • Woodworking machines
    • Metalworking machines
    • Punches
    • Hoists
    • Forklifts
    • Circular saws
    • Band saws
    • Guillotine shears
  • Handle, serve, or sell alcoholic beverages
  • Be exposed to radioactive substances or ionizing radiation
  • Work in:
    • Wrecking or demolition
    • Excavation
    • Logging or sawmills
    • Roofing
    • Manufacturing brick or tile
    • Manufacturing or storage of explosives
    • Mining
    • Meat packing or processing
  • Mix, load, or apply Category I pesticides

Also, no one under 16 may:

  • Work in building or construction
  • Work in manufacturing or food processing
  • Do any baking or cooking on the job (except cooking at a serving counter)
  • Do dry cleaning or work in a commercial laundry
  • Work on a ladder or scaffold
  • Work in a freezer or meat cooler
  • Load or unload trucks, railroad cars, or conveyors
  • Work in a warehouse (except as a clerical)
  • Dispense gas or oil
  • Clean, wash, or polish cars

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What Hours May Teens Work in California?

This table shows the hours teens may work in California. Some school districts may have more restrictive regulations. Also, there are some exceptions for teens in Work Experience Education programs and for teens working in agriculture.

Work hours for teens in agriculture differ from those listed here. A complete list can be found on the Teens in Agriculture page.

Work Hours for Teens (not in agriculture)
    Age 14-15 Age 16-17
Work Hours 7 am to 7 pm from Labor Day to June 1st   5 am to 10 pm on school nights
    Not during school hours   5 am to 12:30 am when there is no school the next day
    7 am-9 pm from June 1st to Labor Day    
Maximum Hours When School Is in Session   18 hours a week, but not over:   48 hours a week, but not over:
    3 hours a day on school days   4 hours a day Monday-Thursday
    8 hours a day Saturday-Sunday and holidays   8 hours a day Friday-Sunday and holidays
Maximum Hours When School Is not in Session   40 hours a week   48 hours a week
    8 hours a day   8 hours a day

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Ideas From Employers

  • A California zoo assigns each new teen worker a "buddy" or mentor. Sometimes this is a more experienced teen worker. This mentor answers questions, helps give hands-on training, and offers safety tips.
  • A retail clothing chain with many young employees uses role-playing regularly at monthly safety meetings. Workers enact specific health and safety problems that have come up, and develop solutions.
  • At one chain of convenience stores, young employees are issued different colored smocks, based on age. This lets the supervisors know at a glance who is not allowed to operate the electric meat slicer.
  • An employer in the fast-food industry, with 8,000 young workers in five states, developed a computerized tracking system to ensure that teens aren't scheduled for too many hours during school weeks.
  • One major grocery store chain includes teen workers on the safety committee that conducts safety inspections, reviews employee injuries, and makes suggestions for prevention.

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Compliance Checklist for Employers

This checklist can help you determine whether you are in compliance with the most important California child labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations. The list is not complete, and is not intended as legal advice. Cal/OSHA Consultation Service also provides free, confidential advice, materials and other assistance to employers.

Labor Laws

  • Employees under 18 do not work too many hours, too late, or too early.
  • Employees under 18 do not do any hazardous work prohibited by child labor laws.
  • Employees under 16 do not do any of the tasks prohibited for their age group.
  • All employees under 18 have valid work permits which were issued by their school district office (or other agencies designated by the district). (Not required for those who have graduated from high school or passed the equivalency exam.)
  • All employees (including teens) are covered by workers' compensation.
  • Employees (including teens) receive the minimum wage-$7.50. (A lower Youth Opportunity Wage is allowed for a limited time period under federal law, but there are many restrictions. For more information, call (415) 557-7878.)

Cal/OSHA Regulations

The program includes:

    • Information and training for all workers about possible hazards, given in a language they understand.
    • A system for workers to report hazards without fear of being fired or punished.
    • A system for inspecting the workplace and correcting hazards promptly.
    • Training for supervisors.
  • You meet the key requirements of the Hazard Communication standard:
    • All containers of toxic materials are labeled with the chemical name, hazard warnings, and name and address of the manufacturer.
    • Employees are trained about chemicals they work with, potential hazards, and protective measures.
    • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for all chemicals in your worksite are easily accessible to workers.
    • You provide all safety and protective equipment that workers need.

NOTE: Cal/OSHA also has many specific regulations covering electrical hazards, fire safety, fall protection, machinery, etc.

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How Can I Hire Teens From a Training Program?

Work Experience Education, School-to-Career, or Academy Programs. Call your high school or school district office. Ask for the Work Experience Educator or school-to-career coordinator.

Regional Occupational Programs or Centers (ROP/C). Call your high school or school district office and ask about trade-specific programs in your area.

Apprenticeship Programs. Call the Division of Apprenticeship Standards Headquarters at (415) 703-4920 to find out about apprenticeship programs for specific trades in your area.

Local job training and placement programs. Call your local Workforce Investment Board. Ask about community training programs.

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Copyright 2009, Labor Occupational Health Program, UC Berkeley.
This page last modified: April 2009
Photos by: Rebecca Letz