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Setting an agenda for advancing young worker safety in the U.S. and Canada.

Runyan C; Lewko J; Rauscher K
Health and safety of young workers: proceedings of a U.S. and Canadian series of symposia. Runyan CW, Lewko J, Rauscher K, Castillo D, Brandspigel S, eds. Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2013-144, 2013 May; :190-199
Scholars and practitioners from multiple perspectives, including developmental science, sociology, business, medicine, and public health, have considered the implications of employment for young people. We summarize a series of meetings designed to synthesize information from these perspectives and derive recommendations to guide research, practice, and policy with a focus on young worker safety and health. During the first three meetings, participants from the United States and Canada considered invited white papers addressing developmental issues, public health data and findings, as well as programmatic advances and evaluation needs. At the final meeting, the participants recommended both research and policy directions to advance understanding and improve young worker safety. More than 17.6 million workers younger than 25 years of age are employed annually in the United States. In Canada, nearly three million young people aged 15-24 years (65%) were working in 2010. The U.S. recorded 3.6 deaths per 100,000 young workers (younger than 25 years of age) in the period 1998-2007, with an additional 7.9 million nonfatal injuries treated in emergency departments. In Canada in 2009, there were 35 fatalities among workers younger than 25 years of age, and 33,837 experienced nonfatal injuries requiring time away from work. Both the U.S. and Canada have laws at the federal and state or provincial levels to regulate the employment of young people. In the U.S., the Fair Labor Standards Act protects workers young-er than 18 years of age by limiting the types of jobs they can hold and their work hours.6 In addi-tion, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 protects all workers. States have separate laws for workers younger than 18 years of age and can enact provisions that strengthen rather than weaken federal laws. In Canada, employment legislation for young workers is limited at the federal level, with responsibility falling primarily to the individual provinces and territories. However, there are fed-eral-level age restrictions, and individual provinces have passed regulations limiting the types of jobs or exposures permitted for young people. For example, in 2003, British Columbia added a requirement stipulating that all workers younger than 18 years of age be under constant and immediate supervision from a person who is at least 19 years of age. Work has multiple effects on young people, both positive and negative. It can help young people develop new skills, explore potential career options, earn money for essential needs, and enjoy increased self-esteem. At the same time, work can be dangerous, exposing young people to unsafe tasks or environments, particularly in situations where training and supervi-sion may be limited. For example, a recent national U.S. study reported that 26% of workers younger than 18 years of age worked at least part of the day without an adult supervisor, and as many as one-third of them reported not having any health and safety training. A similar Ontario study12 revealed that 38% of young workers spent at least part of their day working without supervision. Scholarship on work among adolescents and young adults spans multiple disciplines but is poorly integrated. To address this problem, we embarked on the project entitled "Improving the Experiences of Young Workers in the U.S. and Canada: An Interdisciplinary Educational Program." Funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, the project used a series of invitational meetings to engage an array of scholars and practitioners in setting an agenda for more integrated approaches to improving the safety and quality of work for young workers. We describe the methods used in this process and the recommendations that resulted from this four-year project, which was conducted from 2006 to 2010.
Humans; Adolescents; Age-groups; Workers; Hazards; Exposure-levels; Risk-factors; Work-capacity; Work-capability; Work-environment; Training; Sociological-factors; Education; Psychology; Surveillance-programs; Men; Women; Injuries; Safety-education; Safety-measures; Safety-programs; Health-programs; Public-health
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Runyan CW; Lewko J; Rauscher K; Castillo D; Brandspigel S
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Grant-Number-R25-OH-008924; B20130531
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2013-144
Performing Organization
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division