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Notice to Readers NIOSH Alert: Request for Assistance in Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Adolescent Workers

CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) periodically issues alerts about workplace hazards that have caused death, serious injury, or illness in workers. One such alert, Request for Assistance in Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Adolescent Workers (1), was recently published and is available to the public. * This alert summarizes information about work-related injuries and deaths among adolescents, identifies work that is especially hazardous, and offers recommendations for prevention. This information can help employers, parents, educators, and adolescent workers make informed decisions about safe work and recognize hazards in the workplace.

Each year, approximately 70 adolescents die from injuries at work. Hundreds more are hospitalized, and tens of thousands require treatment in hospital emergency departments. For example, 68 adolescents aged less than 18 years died from work-related injuries in 1993 (2), and an estimated 64,000 adolescents had work-related injuries that required treatment in hospital emergency departments in 1992 (3). Compared with adults, adolescents have a higher risk for work-related injury (4) and a similar risk for fatal occupational injury (5). During 1980-1989, the risk for fatal injury among workers aged 16 and 17 years was 5.1 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, compared with 6.0 for adult workers -- even though adolescents are employed less frequently in especially hazardous jobs.

Agricultural businesses and retail trade accounted for the most work-related deaths among adolescents, and many deaths of workers aged less than 16 years occurred in family-owned businesses (1). Types of work associated with large numbers of deaths and serious injuries included the following: working in or around motor vehicles, operating tractors and other heavy equipment, working near electrical hazards, working in retail and service businesses with a risk for robbery-related homicide, working with fall hazards such as ladders and scaffolds, working around cooking appliances, and performing hazardous manual lifting. To reduce the potential for serious injuries and deaths of adolescent workers, NIOSH recommends:

  1. Employers should know and comply with child labor laws and should evaluate workplace hazards for adolescent workers.

  2. Parents should participate in their children's employment decisions and should discuss the types of work, training, and supervision provided by the employer.

  3. Educators should know child labor laws, provide work experience programs with safe and healthful work environments, and incorporate occupational safety and health information in the general curriculum.

  4. Adolescents should know their rights and responsibilities as workers and should seek training and information about safe work practices.


  1. NIOSH. Request for assistance in preventing deaths and injuries of adolescent workers. Cincinnati: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, 1995; DHHS publication no. (NIOSH)95-125.

  2. Toscano G, Windau J. The changing character of fatal work injuries. Monthly Labor Review 1994;118:17-28.

  3. Layne LA, Castillo DN, Stout N, Cutlip P. Adolescent occupational injuries requiring hospital emergency department treatment: a nationally representative sample. Am J Public Health 1994;84:657-60.

  4. CDC. Surveillance of occupational injuries treated in hospital emergency departments. MMWR 1983;32 (no. 2SS):31SS-37SS.

  5. Castillo DN, Landen DD, Layne LA. Occupational injury deaths of 16- and 17-year-olds in the United States. Am J Public Health 1994;84:646-9.

    • Single copies of this document are available without charge from the Publications Office, NIOSH, CDC, Mailstop C-13, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998; telephone (800) 356-4674 ({513} 533-8328 for persons outside the United States); fax (513) 533-8573.

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