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Here's how teens can stay safe on the job

Was your teenager able to secure a summer job? If so, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

With the national unemployment rate at an all-time high of 8.9 percent, many parents are still worried over the lack of jobs for their children. Your attention, however, should now be focused on maintaining your child's rights and safety while he or she is at work.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) provides information on child labor laws, summer job safety, and what to do if your teen is still searching for that perfect summer gig.

The Department of Labor offices in Minnesota and North Dakota have established strict laws on child employment. Children ages 14-15 can work between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and can work no more than 8 hours in one day and 40 hours per week.

Once a child turns 16, he or she no longer has to follow any restrictions and is free to work any number of hours. With certain limitations, those younger than the age of 18 can work in any job or occupation that has not been declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.

Hazardous jobs include working with power-drive machines, driving a motor vehicle, wrecking/demolition services, roofing operations, and manufacturing brick or tile.

"This may be your teen's first work experience and as parents you need to ensure that he or she is working for a good company and in a safe environment," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. "Make sure that both you and your child feel comfortable with the new job and trust the organization. Check the business out through the BBB."

Whether your teen is working at a fast-food restaurant, a grocery store, or for a land care company the most important factor is his or her safety. You may not have concerns if your teen is working in a familiar environment, but more than likely your child will be surrounded by new people and in foreign territory. Make sure to address the following issues before your teen's first day on the job:

--Visit the prospective employer to see what environment your teen will be working in. Do not be afraid to ask questions of the owner or supervisor. Will your child be around people who are safe and act appropriately? Does the owner make sure that there are responsible people in charge when he or she is away?

--What sort of training is offered? You should be satisfied that your child is properly trained to handle the job, is never asked to substitute in jobs for which he or she is not trained, and that your teen's co-workers are also adequately trained.

--What are the specific job responsibilities? Make sure that your teen feels comfortable doing what is expected of him or her. Know where your teen will be working at all times. Do not let your child get involved with traveling work crews who are dropped off at unknown neighborhoods or driven to other cities to sell magazines, candy, etc.

--If your teen works in a late-night establishment find out who else is working late and if an adult will always be present. Ask the owner what security measures are in place to ensure the safety of your child.

--Contact your local BBB (www.thefirstbbb.org) to obtain further background information on the employer.

If your teen is still struggling to find a job for the summer do not let him or her get discouraged quite yet. Although a study conducted by IPSOS Public Affairs for SnagAJob.com indicated that 46 percent of hourly hiring managers with responsibility to recruit summer employees will not be recruiting this year, all hope is not lost for your teen to secure a job. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, North Dakota has the lowest state unemployment rate, while Minnesota is also under the national average at 8.1 percent.

Networking is one of the best ways to find a job. Make sure that your teen is actively telling relatives, family friends and teachers that he or she is looking for work as they may know of an opportunity or someone else to contact.

When it comes to the application your teen needs to be professional. This means complete sentences, no spelling errors, and no silly email addresses in which he or she can be contacted at. If your teen has a cell phone ensure that the voicemail message is appropriate. First impressions can be the make or break point in getting the job. During the interview encourage your teen to show enthusiasm and eagerness for the job, and be very flexible when it comes to working certain shifts or hours.

You may find that your teen is exhausted from filling out applications and contacting companies only to constantly come up short. If this is the case, suggest to your child the idea of starting his or her own business. Many teenagers have had successful summers by doing this.

Examples include starting a lawn care business to mow lawns and water flowers, dog walking, babysitting, or forming a pool maintenance service. Your teen may also consider contacting a local farm to see if they need help or signing up to coach a youth sports team. Temporary agencies and employment agencies are also helpful in finding summer jobs for teenagers.

Continue to be involved during the entire process to help make your teen's first work experience a good one. Show support and encourage your teen to discuss work regularly. Keep in mind that this is a great time to teach your child financial responsibility. Discuss the value of saving for the future and creating a budget.

The mission of the Better Business Bureau is to promote through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct; and to instill public confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, protect, and assist the general public. Contact the BBB at (651) 699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222, or at www.thefirstbbb.org.

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