Child Labor Research Needs

DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 97-143
cover of 97-143

National Objectives for the Occupational Safety and Health of Youths

Both the Federal Government and the private sector have numerous national objectives that intersect with the mission of the Child Labor Working Team to reduce injuries and illnesses in young workers and to prepare them for encountering workplace hazards. These objectives are summarized below and outlined in more detail in Appendix D.

Federal Objectives

The Federal Government has identified national objectives for the occupational safety and health of youths at the departmental level (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS]) and within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NIOSH. Congress has established similar objectives in recent legislation.

The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Russian Minister of Health and Medical Industry signed a joint policy statement on health education for children in January 1996 [Shalala and Tsaregorodtsev 1996]. This statement affirms the importance of giving children fundamental knowledge about how to live healthy lives. The statement also calls on citizens and education and health professionals to support and provide quality health education that uses families, communities, and educational and health institutions to transmit essential information about health risks.

Healthy People 2000 [DHHS 1994] is a national strategy for significantly improving the health of the Nation during 1990-2000. This document calls for a reduction in adolescent work injury rates and an increase in school health education (including instruction in injury prevention and control and community based approaches to meet Healthy People 2000 objectives) [DHHS 1994].

Youths are the newest priority area for CDC [CDC 1996a]. One of the 21 research priority areas identified in the NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda is special populations at risk, which includes children and adolescents [NIOSH 1996b].

The School-to-Work Opportunities Act (Public Law 103329), the Goals 2000 Educate America Act (Public Law 103227), and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act (Public Law 101392) all seek to produce students who are prepared for the world of work. The School-to-Work Opportunities Act and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act specifically require instruction in “all aspects of the industry”, a term that explicitly includes occupational safety and health.

Private Sector Objectives

Public health and child advocacy groups in the private sector have called for research and prevention efforts focused on the occupational safety and health of youths. The National Committee for Childhood Agricultural Injury Prevention has published a report with 13 recommendations for reducing the toll of agriculture on children [National Committee for Childhood Agricultural Injury Prevention 1996]. All but one of these recommendations fall within the purview of NIOSH (including surveillance, etiologic and intervention research, and educating the public and specific stakeholders about agricultural risks to children). The National Safety Council has released a policy statement encouraging research to reduce the risks posed to children by tractors — a machine that accounts for substantial numbers of childhood agricultural deaths each year [National Safety Council 1996]. The American Public Health Association (APHA) recommends conducting research into the safety and health of working children, incorporating occupational safety and health training into school curricula, educating stakeholders about the occupational risks of youths, and coordinating the efforts of the DHHS and the DOL in controlling and preventing occupational injuries in youths [APHA 1995]. The Child Labor Coalition of the National Consumers League has called for research and a comprehensive multiagency response to occupational safety and health concerns about young workers [Child Labor Coalition 1993].

Page last reviewed: June 6, 2014