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Job Death Rates for 16, 17-year-olds Comparable to or Higher Than Adult Rates for Leading Causes

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519
December 16, 1997

The three leading categories of work-related fatalities claim 16- and 17-year-old workers at rates comparable to or slightly higher than rates for adult workers, results of a new study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggest.

The study, which will be published in the December 1997 issue of the journal Injury Prevention, examined job-related fatality data for the years 1990-92. During that time, 1.01 of every 100,000 workers age 16 and 17 died from work-related motor vehicle injuries, compared with 0.82 deaths per every 100,000 workers age 35 to 44. Work-related homicides claimed 0.76 per every 100,000 workers aged 16 and 17, compared with 0.65 of every 100,000 workers age 35 to 44. Rates in the two age categories for machinery-related workplace deaths were 0.57 and 0.42, respectively.

The work-related death rate from all causes in 1990-92 was lower for 16- and 17-year-olds than for young and middle-aged adult workers. However, after a dramatic decline in work-related death rates for 16- and 17-year-olds from 1980 to 1983, further declines from 1983 to 1992 had become less precipitous, the analysis found.

“Any work-related death is needless, but the tragedy is compounded when a young life is cut short,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. “These data remind us that occupational fatalities can and must be prevented.”

The study was based on data collected from death certificates under NIOSH’s National Traumatic Occupational Fatality (NTOF) system. Although NTOF generally is a comprehensive source of information on work-related injury deaths in the U.S., it may not include some work-related deaths among 16- and 17-year-olds because the fatalities were not identified as work-related on the death certificates.

The article reiterated NIOSH’s recommendations for preventing occupational injuries and illnesses among adolescent workers. Employers should know the child labor and safety laws and provide safe employment and appropriate supervision. Parents should take an active role in their children’s employment decisions. Educators should consider safety as a primary concern when signing work permits and preparing young people for work. Medical providers should take work histories, note employment information on medical records, and provide young people with safety information.

Further information on the study, “Occupational Injury Deaths of 16 and 17 Year Olds in the United States: Trends and Comparisons with Older Workers,” along with other information on NIOSH research involving young workers, is available from the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH, (1-800-356-4674) or by visiting the NIOSH site on the World Wide Web,