The Apprentice

The Apprentice

Well, a new year is here and I hope you all had a great 2006, and your creative, productive, and monetary prospects for 2007 will be even better.

In the hustle and bustle of today’s INSTANT society, it’s getting really difficult to find young folks that have an interest in the things we do, let alone the way we do them. One of the co-owners of the Hair and Nail Salon, next to my business, told me her son was very interested in learning how to airbrush and pinstripe. She brings here airbrushes to me for cleaning, and wondered, since my daughters have grown up and moved on to other things, if I would like a new helper around the shop. Well, he’s 13 years old and is full of energy, and I’m happy to say that he’s stuck with it since early November and now he cleans and maintains Mom’s airbrushes, and his practice sessions are coming along nicely; and, I have a nice clean shop. This is the second week in January and I’m preparing to introduce him to pinstriping.

So what does this have to do with safety, well let me tell you, when you become responsible for the safety of a minor, especially when they are someone else’s son or daughter, your whole working environment changes, from something simple as leaving the wrong magazine laying on the desk, to making sure inquisitive hands don’t get into the wrong places or the wrong chemicals. With all the horror stories in our world it’s an honor to have someone trust you with their son or daughter for any length of time. For those of you willing to take on the challenge, here is a brief insight as to the things you should consider on your checklist.

First, you should pay a visit to your insurance agent, and check out the child labor laws, which will be a serious eye opener! Unfortunately, you may need to get some legal advice as well. Once you’ve done this, you can negotiate all the particulars of working conditions, hours, pay, training and other administrative stuff (which Mom insisted was done through her son, with mom’s approval of course).

We started off with a visit with Mom and Dad. Gave them a tour of the shop, discussed the things that are done on a daily basis, what chemicals are used in the shop and what hazards their son had the potential of being exposed to. Something else that you may not think important is all that great reference material in your shop.

There are a lot of things in our magazines that parents may not want their sons or daughters exposed to, so you need to set up some ground rules as to what material is and is not acceptable for them to look at. I also have a TV in my shop for viewing training tapes, and I like to watch it while I’m screen-printing. As trivial as it may seem, you need to think about what’s on that screen when a minor is present, maybe Dr. Phil is not something the parents approve of. The most important thing was sitting down with him and his parents and going over the MSDS book, making note of the things that he would be permitted to use and making sure that he and his parents understood them, as well as the safety precautions that had to be adhered to along with any of the symptoms, so if there was a problem at home, his parents would know what to do.

Each and every task that we have undertaken has been a learning experience for him as well as myself. I’ve had to pre-think everything that I normally took for granted. Is the equipment in good working order? Is it safe to use? What safety steps will I need to teach him and what is the most effective way to get the importance across to him considering his age and learning abilities, and how can I test his measure of understanding? Maybe your standards of what you would use, are not as safe as they need to be for someone else to use, especially a minor that’s under your responsibility. Remember, being that young and impressionable? You don’t want to pass on bad habits, only good craftsmanship! Also, remember that anything that is done or said, in the shop, gets home to mom and dad, who have graciously entrusted you to influence their child in an ethical manor, so make sure its all positive! Think about the little details. Murphy’s Law seems to have a stronger influence when working with youth!

Taking on the challenge of passing on your knowledge to a younger generation can be a very rewarding experience, if you take the time to learn the things that you need to know to do it safely and responsively. You may need to do some negotiating with your insurance company or the parents, in conjunction with good legal advice. It may cost you a little more in terms of time and money, but believe me, if you’ve done your homework and the individual has the fire and desire to stick with it; money can’t buy the kind of reward you will get back.

Robin

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