Landscaping and Lawn Care Dangers for Teen Workers – National Consumers League

By Lauren Perez, NCL Intern

The last in our five-part series about the 2009 Five Worst Job for Teens

As summer is winding to a close, we’ll take a look at the last job on NCL’s 2009 Five Worst Jobs for Teens: landscaping or lawn care, which can include many hazards, ranging from driving to using heavy equipment, exposure to heat and working dangerously unsupervised. Working outside increases a worker’s risk of heat stress, which occurs when the body is unable to cool itself by sweating. Heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke and can eventually lead even to death. Warning signs includes headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness and moist skin, confusion, vomiting, dry, hot skin with no sweating, and seizures or convulsions. Heat stress can be prevented by monitoring oneself and others for symptoms, using cooling fans/air-conditioning; rest regularly, drinking lots of water and wearing lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothes. 

Youth workers in landscaping and grounds keeping also face many of the same hazards of working with machinery as youth in agriculture. A 16-year-old landscape laborer was killed when he was pinned underneath the front-end loader he was driving. The worker and his supervisor had been trimming and removing trees from a residential property and were returning their equipment into storage. The worker lost control of the front-end loader, causing it to rollover. The equipment did not have a rollover protection system and the worker had not been trained in using the equipment. According to The Fair Labor Standards Act, employed youths under the age of 16 may not operate “power driving hoisting apparatuses” in nonagricultural jobs.

Young workers in the landscaping and lawn care industry need to be aware of how to protect themselves from heat, pesticides, electrical hazards, noise, cuts, and operating or driving heavy equipment. Youth over the age of 16 may operate power mowers, chain saws, wood chippers, and trimmers. They may not drive ATVs or tractors for non-agricultural labor if the equipment is used for transporting passengers. 

Both teens and their parents should think carefully when choosing a job. Parents and teens need to be aware of potential dangers such as working with equipment or in extreme heat. Youth workers should never hesitate to ask for more training. Young workers and their employers need to be aware of labor laws and it’s up to good employers to abide by them. Being employed can be a safe and rewarding experience for teens and provide them with skills they will use in future jobs, but it’s important that everyone work together to ensure safe working environments for all.