Sumertime is a fun time for many families, but it is also a very active time in terms of safety and staying healthy. While many families use this break from school to head out on summer vacation trips, there are many families that also have children that are of age to be working (aged 15 to 24) during the summer as well.

In my last blog post I discussed these “rookies,” or young workers, and wrote about helping them understand their rights and responsibilities regarding safety on the job. As a parent, you like to think you have control over your kids’ safety at school, at home and on vacation because you are around them so much and have been able to instill healthy living practices. However, work is where parents have very little if any control over their kids’ safety, and the kids are in a very differernt environment with different jobs and responsibilities than they have had at home or school.

[Image courtesy of Flickr user via a Creative Commons license]Knowing that your child, a young worker, is safe at a worksite might involve playing a game of “20 Questions” over the dinner table, but it only needs to be an open, honest conversation. Besides, I only give you 10 possible questions to consider asking, not 20.

At the same time, parents can sometimes feel a sense of calm about their kids working, because the parents know that those kids will be working with grown-ups and those adults will have the duty and responsibility to look over the young workers and be the parent away from home. Just as I wrote in my last post that young workers can tend to have a sense of invincibility in life where they think they can’t possibly be hurt, it can be natural for parents to think the same way about their kids. No parent thinks about burying a 17- or 22-year-old kid, right?

As parents, we have always set down at the dinner table every night during school and asked our kids about their day – what they did, who they hung out with after school, and how did things go at band practice or basketball practice. Getting intel from the kids is helpful to us as parents to know that our kids are OK and doing well and are happy at school (relatively speaking), but do we take the same approach at work?

I am not one to say that you should suddenly be fearful of your kids working when you weren’t to begin with, but I am saying it can be very helpful for you and for your young worker if you were informed about what is going on at work and understanding whether the company for which your young worker is employed is keeping your son or daughter safe. However, often your kids will not know what to say or talk about because to them it’s all too “boring” to talk about. (We know better, of course.) So if you know your kids won’t necessarily volunteer this information, you should at least be concerned for safety to ask some “right” questions to your child to get him or her to inform you about the work site.  Here are some ideas:

1. Is the boss or the company providing safety training to you and all workers?

2. Is your supervisor always close by, and does he or she see you work and give you feedback so that you are working in a safe way?

3. What are the specific tasks you do at work?

4. If you see any safety issues, do you feel comfortable with going to your supervisor or boss about them?

5. Do you feel tired when at work or at school?

6. Do you work at heights, like climbing a ladder or working on a scaffold?

7. Do you have to lift or carry anything heavy, and are you around any chemicals or hazardous materials?

8. Have you been trained on how to carry these items or handle these dangerous materials?

9. Are you provided safety equipment and do you understand how to use it?

10. Do you report any and all injuries or illnesses you suffer on the job to your boss or supervisor immediately?

OK, maybe it will be hard to ask all these questions over one dinner conversation. But I do want to stress for you as a parent that these are the kinds of questions you should feel comfortable asking, and your child should feel comfrotable answering. Just like you protecting him or her by keeping them from opening a chemical cabinet or putting fingers in sockets as a toddler, asking these questions at least gives you, as a parent, some sense of controlling the safety and health of your child, even when you are not there physically.

It does not have to be an interrogation, but more of a conversation to show that you are interested in his or her well-being, and he or she can learn to respect and appreciate that of you. Eventually.