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Preventing Teen Worker Deaths, Injuries: NIOSH Issues New, Expanded Bulletin

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749
August 25, 2003

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today issued a new, expanded bulletin that reiterates NIOSH’s call for assistance to protect teen workers from job-related death and injury. The bulletin provides updated statistics and other new information to help advance such efforts.

“NIOSH Alert: Preventing Deaths, Injuries, and Illnesses of Young Workers” notes that 67 youths under age 18 died from job-related injuries each year during 1992-2000, and an estimated 77,000 youths required treatment in hospital emergency rooms in 1998, the most recent years for which NIOSH has analyzed statistics in those categories. The bulletin updates a previous document published in 1995.

“The new school year is approaching, a particularly busy time for nearly 3 million young people who will balance their studies with part-time employment on weekends and evenings,” NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., noted. “The updated NIOSH bulletin is a reminder that serious and often fatal injuries among working teens are all too prevalent, and that all of us have vital roles in preventing those risks.”

The new Alert contains several recent case studies that illustrate the range of industries and occupations in which teen workers have suffered occupational injuries, including incidents in which 1) a 17-year-old laborer was crushed when the forklift he was operating overturned, 2) a 16-year-old restaurant cashier was fatally shot in the head during a robbery attempt, 3) a 15-year-old was suffocated in a corn bin while working on his family=s farm, and 4) a 17-year-old volunteer junior fire fighter died in a traffic crash while responding to a call.

The highest number of teen worker fatalities occur in agricultural work and the retail trades, according to recent data. Other areas of high risk include construction and work activities involving motor vehicles and mobile machinery. Although safety requirements and child labor laws prohibit or restrict teen employment in certain kinds of industries and occupations, young workers may yet face risks on the job because an employer or a young employee may not be aware of applicable laws and may not be aware that a hazard exists, because the young employee may lack experience, or because there is inadequate training or supervision.

The bulletin suggests several practical steps to help keep teen workers safe, including these:

  • Employers should assess potential hazards in their workplaces, make sure safe equipment is used, provide adequate training and supervision, and know and comply with safety standards and child labor laws.
  • Educators should ensure the safety of school-based work experience programs, include safety and health in the school curriculum, and know the child labor laws when signing work permits.
  • Parents should take an active role in their child=s employment, know the child labor laws, be aware of young employees= rights, and share such information with other parents.
  • Young workers should know about and follow safe work practices, ask about training and hazards, and know their rights and relevant laws.

“NIOSH Alert: Preventing Deaths, Injuries, and Illnesses of Young Workers,” DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-128, is available by calling 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) or from the web at 128/2003 128.htm . Additional NIOSH information on preventing work-related deaths and injuries among teen workers also is available on the web at