Health & Safety
The rates of injury for young workers are high. The rate of treatment in an emergency department for occupational injuries is about twice as high for youth workers as it is for those over 25 years of age,1 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests that every nine minutes a young person gets hurt while on the job.2 From 1998 to 2007, an average of 795,000 young workers were treated for on-the-job injuries each year in U.S. hospital injury departments3 for nonfatal injuries. In addition, in 2009, 359 workers under the age of 24 died from work-related injuries, with 27 of those deaths occurring for youth under 18.
Even though regulations restrict youth from participating in a range of hazardous jobs and limit the hours that youth can work, youth can still face many hazards in the workplace. The high injury rate may be related to the high frequency of injury hazards in places where youth typically work (e.g., hazards in restaurant settings associated with slippery floors and use of knives and cooking equipment). In addition to the work environment, youth lack experience and may not have received adequate safety training. Some youth, particularly youth still in middle and high school, may have inadequate fitness, strength, and cognitive abilities to complete some job-related tasks, such as operating farm equipment (e.g., tractors).4
To ensure that youth stay safe on the job, it is important that both youth and employers know their rights and responsibilities. This includes ensuring that the environment is safe and that all necessary safety equipment (e.g., safety glasses, ear plugs, gloves) is provided. It is also important that youth are well trained so that they can do their jobs safely. Training should also extend to all the potential hazards associated with the work that youth will be doing so that they can recognize and report unsafe situations.5
Are You a Teen Worker?
This informational booklet is targeted to workers ages 13 to 18 in nonagricultural industries. The booklet provides facts that youth need to stay safe and healthy at work. The guide also informs young workers about the jobs they can and cannot do and about permissible work hours as defined under federal child labor laws. Additionally, the booklet helps youth recognize common workplace hazards and teaches young people about their rights and responsibilities in nonagricultural jobs.
Youth@Work: Talking Safety
This curriculum in occupational safety and health can be used in the classroom or other group training sessions. It is designed to teach core health and safety skills and knowledge and covers basic information relevant to any occupation. The target audience for the curriculum is the high school‒age student; however, much of the material can be used in postsecondary job training environments, such as apprenticeship programs. The curriculum includes instructions for teachers and a step-by-step guide for presenting the material. The bulk of the curriculum is focused on teaching fundamental principles of occupational safety that young workers can use on their first jobs and carry with them into adulthood.
Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Young Workers
This resource from the U.S. Department of Labor gives teens, educators, parents, and employers information on young worker issues. Details about workers’ rights and links to training and other educational tools, including state youth employment laws, can also be found on this site.
Youth Rules! is a youth-friendly resource that helps clarify rules and regulations for youth workers. Information is targeted at teens, parents, teachers, and employers. The site provides information on the hours and jobs that youth at different ages can work.
State-Based Occupational Health Surveillance Clearinghouse
This clearinghouse, developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), provides access to state-based occupational health surveillance and related reports. Data and products focused on young workers can be identified by using the search link and terms such as “youth” and “young worker.”
National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety
This center strives to enhance the health and safety of all children exposed to hazards associated with agricultural work and rural environments. The center is funded by the. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (HHS/CDC/NIOSH) and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau within HHS/Health Resources Services Administration.