The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requests assistance in preventing deaths, injuries, and illnesses among young workers. An average of 67 workers under age 18 died from work-related injuries each year during 1992-2000. In 1998, an estimated 77,000 required treatment in hospital emergency rooms. This Alert summarizes available information about work-related injuries among young workers, identifies work that is especially hazardous, and offers recommendations for prevention. NIOSH requests that the information in this Alert be brought to the attention of young workers as well as their employers, educators, and parents. Others are requested to help distribute this information: safety and health officials and professionals, departments and boards of education, parent teacher associations, those involved in implementing school-to-work or Workforce Investment Act partnerships, unions, advocacy groups, youth organizations, health care providers, insurance companies, and editors of trade journals or publications written for parents and young workers. Research surveys of students and parents suggest that 70% to 80% of teens have worked for pay at some time during their high school years [Light 1995; Steinberg and Cauffman 1995]. Between 1996 and 1998, a monthly average of 2.9 million workers aged 15 to 17 worked during school months, and 4.0 million worked during summer months [BLS 2000]. Workers aged 15 to 17 spend the most work hours in food preparation and service jobs, stock handler or laborer jobs, administrative support jobs, and farming, forestry, or fishing jobs [NIOSH 2002a]. Developmental factors in young workers and the nature of their employment may increase their risk of injury or illness on the job: 1. Young workers commonly perform tasks outside their usual work assignments for which they may not have received training [Bowling et al. 1998; Massachusetts Department of Public Health 1998]; 2. Young workers may lack the experience and physical and emotional maturity needed for certain tasks; 3. Young workers may be unfamiliar with work requirements and safe operating procedures for certain tasks; 4. Young workers may not know their legal rights and may not know which work tasks are prohibited by child labor laws [Castillo et al. 1999; NRC/IOM 1998]; 5. Young workers are experiencing rapid growth of organ and musculoskeletal systems, which may make them more likely to be harmed by exposure to hazardous substances or to develop cumulative trauma disorders [Bruckner and Weil 1999; NIOSH 1997a; NRC/IOM 1998]; and, 6. Young workers may be exposed to suspected asthma-causing agents and substances that disrupt the function or maturation of the endocrine and central nervous systems [Golub 2000; Banks and Wang 2000]. This publication includes a tear out "Fact Sheet"
for posting in the workplace.