National Consumers League

Worker Rights

Worker Rights

Teens: avoid this year's most dangerous summer work

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Teens, avoid these most dangerous jobs in 2011It's that time of year again: teens are pounding the pavement looking for summer work. Having a job can be an important part of youth development, but the worst work - the ones on this year's Five Most Dangerous Teen Jobs - should be avoided in some cases or accepted with caution in others..

Jobs for teens are an important part of youth development, providing both needed income and teaching valuable work skills. According to research, teen jobs increase future earnings and also decrease the likelihood the working teen will drop out.

Since 2000 the percentage of working teens has fallen 40 percent—in part because the federal government has cut back on funding for youth programs and in part because of the global economic recession. Job competition may lead working teens who are desperate for work to seek jobs that are unsafe for them.

The National Consumers League (NCL) provides its annual update of its Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens to help teenagers and their parents make safer job choices and to increase awareness of job dangers they may encounter.

NCL is also concerned that some states a few states weakened child protections in 2011, and the federal government withdrew proposed rules that would have made work for teens in agriculture much safer.

Each day in America, 12 to 13 workers of all ages die and some of the victims are youth workers. In 2010, 34 workers under 18 died in the workplace—nearly half of those workers (16) were under 16 years old. In the 18 to 19 age group, another 56 workers died.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that each year about 146,000 youth sustain work-related injuries. That translates to 400 young workers injured on the job every day.

NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens in 2012: (full report here)

  • Agriculture: Harvesting Crops and Using Machinery
  • Construction and Height Work
  • Traveling Youth Sales Crews
  • Outside Helper: Landscaping, Groundskeeping, and Lawn Service
  • Driver/Operator: Forklifts, Tractors, and ATV’s

These five jobs hold special dangers for working youth. The dangers of each job are explored in the report and real life examples of what can go wrong when teens are not protected in the workplace are given. Agriculture, construction, landscaping, and machinery operators all experience much higher occupational injury and fatality rates. And traveling sales crews expose vulnerable working teens to many dangers including vehicle accidents, arrest, sexual exploitation, and workplace violence.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics for all workers suggests that male workers are much more at risk than female. In 2009, 93 percent of the workers in America who died in the job were male. One in seven deaths were from falls (for both men and women). Women were more than twice as likely to be murdered on the job as men. The most common way for a teen worker to die is in a traffic accident.

Nearly half of teenagers injured on the job work in restaurants or other “leisure/hospitality” companies. Three in 10 work in retail establishments. Many teens work in restaurants are at risk of burns and other kitchen-related injuries--Fryers, meat slicers, knives, compactors, and wet, greasy floors can all combine to form a dangerous work environment. Restaurants and retail establishments also hold risks of workplace violence. According to 2010 federal data, three teens were murdered while at work and 12 other workers between the ages of 16 and 19 died from workplace violence. One survey of high school students in Massachusetts found that one in 10 had suffered a physical attack at work.

NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens provides practical tips for teenagers considering their job choices and practical suggestions for parents so that they can talk to their sons and daughters and instill a sense of safety consciousness that will help protect them on the job, empowering them to ask for needed safety training and say “no” when dangerous tasks are requested.

The report also suggests actions that Congress, the Department of Labor, and state governments can pursue to better protect teen workers, including the removal of exemptions to U.S. child labor law that leave child farmworkers in the U.S. exposed to one of the country’s most dangerous industries.