Safely Speaking

Keeping Young Workers Safe & Complying with Child Labor Laws

By Lester Claravall, Child Labor Compliance Officer, Oklahoma Department of Labor With the return of summer, many Oklahoma teens will be working in restaurants, retail establishments, movie theatres, and offices.  As students move into the workforce, it’s important for them to understand workplace rights and job safety requirements.

The Child Labor Division of the Oklahoma Department of Labor (ODOL) is eager to provide employers, educators, parents, and students with information to ensure the state’s youngest workers are employed in a safe, healthy, fair, and productive work environment.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, young workers have four (4) basic rights:

             1.    The right to a safe and healthful workplace;

             2.    The right to be informed of hazards in the workplace and how to prevent injuries from those hazards;

             3.    The right to report hazards to their supervisors, and if  employers refuse to address those hazards, the right to file a complaint with

        OSHA; and

            4.    The right to refuse work they believe, in good faith, may be dangerous to themselves or others.

Young workers enjoy additional federal and state employment standards, such as:

  •   A minimum wage of $7.25 per hour;
  •  14- and 15-year-olds must secure a student work permit from their school before beginning employment;
  •  14- and 15-year-olds may work no more than eight (8) hours on a non-school day and no more than forty (40) hours per non-school week.  From June 1 thru Labor Day, they may only work between the hours of 7:00 am and 9:00 pm;
  • 14- and 15-year-olds must receive a minimum thirty (30) minute break period if they work five (5) or more consecutive hours in a day and a minimum one (1) hour cumulative break period if they work eight (8) consecutive hours in a day; and
  • 14- and 15-year-olds cannot be directly employed in, or directly interact/operate: construction; cooking or baking; fryers or grills; hoisting devices; ladders or scaffolds; lawn mowers and weed eaters (other than in self-employment); loading/unloading; manufacturing, mining, or processing; motor vehicles or service as helpers on vehicles; power-driven machines or equipment; public messenger service; public utilities and communications; slicers or sharp knives; transportation of persons or property by rail, highway, air, water, pipeline, or other means; and warehousing or storage.

For a complete listing of prohibited occupations for 16- and 17-year-olds, please check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s website (

For questions regarding Oklahoma’s child labor laws and further assistance, please contact Child Labor Officer Lester Claravall at  You may also check out the ODOL website (