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Safety, Health Precautions for Young Workers Highlighted in NIOSH Poster to Schools

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 260-8519
June 2, 1998

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is working with the nation’s high schools to distribute a new poster and other information emphasizing safety and health at work for students under 18 years of age.

As the summer hiring season approaches, the new poster reminds young workers that they have a right to safe and healthy workplaces, including required safety clothing, equipment, and training, and the right to know about and be protected from hazards. The poster also notes that both the federal and state governments restrict the hours and types of work that adolescents are permitted to do.

NIOSH is distributing the poster to every high school in the U.S., along with copies of a pamphlet, “Are You a Working Teen?—What You Should Know About Safety and Health on the Job.” The pamphlet provides further information on types of hazards to which young workers could be exposed, restrictions on hours and types of work, and resources for further help.

“NIOSH is pleased to partner again this year with the nation’s educators to raise young peoples’awareness of safety as they prepare to enter the summer job market,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. “The poster and the pamphlet offer practical information that students can use for a safe summer at work.”

Each year, approximately 70 adolescents die from injuries at work, hundreds more are hospitalized, and tens of thousands require treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Given that research indicates only one-third of all work-related injuries are seen in emergency rooms, NIOSH estimates that nearly 200,000 adolescents suffer work-related injuries annually.

For the leading causes of fatal injuries — work-related motor vehicle injuries, work-related homicides, and injuries associated with machinery — death rates for 16- and 17-year-old workers are comparable to or slightly higher than rates for adult workers.

Types of work that are 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 the risk of robbery-related homicide exists, working around cooking appliances, and continuous manual lifting or the lifting of heavy objects.

Young workers may be at particular risk because of inexperience, absence of meaningful safety training, lack of appropriate supervision, desire to show their independence and ability to get the job done without going to the supervisor or older co-workers, learning unsafe work practices from co-workers, and failure of parents, employers, or educators to recognize hazardous or prohibited work tasks.

Many interested parties can play a part in young worker safety: 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 workers with safety information.

The new NIOSH poster was originally designed by the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General and the Massachusetts Department of Health under a cooperative agreement from NIOSH. It is the latest of a series of annual informational materials distributed to schools by NIOSH at the time when adolescents are beginning to apply for summer jobs. The companion pamphlet, first distributed last year, was prepared by the University of California at Berkeley Occupational Health Program under a cooperative agreement from NIOSH. Both publications were modified by NIOSH to be applicable to all states.

For copies of the young worker poster, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 98-120 (in limited remaining supply), and the pamphlet “Are You a Working Teen?”, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-132, call the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). For further information on NIOSH research, visit NIOSH on the World Wide Web at