NIOSH Highlights Young Worker Injury Prevention as Summer Employment Season Nears

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519
June 1997

  • Each year, approximately 70 adolescents die from injuries at work, hundreds more are hospitalized, and tens of thousands require treatment in hospital emergency rooms.
  • NIOSH is disseminating information for youths about working safely and encourages educators, parents, school and medical personnel who sign work permits, and employers to help make this a safe summer for all working teens.

As the 1997 summer employment season nears, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is disseminating two publications that provide concise, practical information for protecting workers under 18 years of age from work-related injuries.

“NIOSH Alert: Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Adolescent Workers,” a one-page fact sheet, summarizes information about types of work that are especially hazardous for young people, and practical steps that employers, parents, educators, and young workers can take to advance job safety. NIOSH is sending the fact sheet to every high school in the U.S. for further dissemination to students, their parents, school and medical personnel who sign work permits, and employers.

“Are You a Working Teen?”, a pamphlet, provides key safety information to adolescents in an easy-to-read, easy-to-carry format. The brochure is adapted from a publication originally produced by the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California at Berkeley under a NIOSH-supported, community-based initiative.

“With the approach of summer, the number of hours worked by young people will increase substantially across the U.S.,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. “This is an opportune time for all of us as parents, educators, employers, and occupational safety and health professionals to recognize the unique risk factors that young workers face, and take steps to assure that work is a safe, rewarding experience for them.”

The outreach builds on a similar NIOSH initiative with schools last year, when educators enclosed copies of the fact sheet with report cards, used it in safety training classes for students seeking work permits, and requested thousands of additional copies for further distribution to students, parents, and employers. The fact sheet is reprinted from a more detailed NIOSH document, “NIOSH Alert: Request for Assistance in Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Adolescent Workers.”

According to the most recent data on occupational fatalities, 66 young people under the age of 18 died from work-related injuries in 1995. The most recent data on non-fatal incidents showed thatsome 70,000 workers between the ages of 14 and 17 suffered job-related injuries during fiscal 1996 that were treated in hospital emergency rooms. This is an underestimate of the total number of non-fatal occupational injuries to working adolescents, because many work-related injuries do not receive hospital treatment. Types of work especially hazardous to adolescents include:

  • Working in or around motor vehicles.
  • Operating tractors and other heavy equipment.
  • Working near electrical hazards
  • Working in retail and service industries where there is a risk of robbery-related homicide.
  • Working on ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or construction sites.
  • Working around cooking appliances.
  • Continuous manual lifting or lifting of heavy objects.

Practical steps for protecting the safety and health of young workers include these:

  • Employers should comply with child labor laws, assess and eliminate hazards for young workers, and train young workers to recognize hazards and use safe work practices.
  • Parents should take an active role in their children’s employment decisions, and discuss the type of work involved and the supervision provided by the employer.
  • Educators should know child labor laws in signing work permits, and make sure that school-based work experience programs provide jobs in safe and healthful environments.
  • Young people should participate in training programs, use safe work practices, and be aware they have the right to work in a safe environment.

Copies of “NIOSH Alert: Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Adolescent Workers” and “Are You a Working Teen?” are available from NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). For other NIOSH publications about specific workplace hazards faced by young people, call the toll-free information number or visit the NIOSH home page.

Page last reviewed: July 22, 2015