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Industrial & Organisational : Introduction : Personnel : Organizational psychology : Occupations: Work environment: Index : Outline

Around the world, nearly 250 million children, about one in every six children aged 5 to 17, are involved in child labor. [1]Children can be found in almost any economic sector. However, at a global level, most of them work in agriculture (70%).[1]

Approximately 2.4 million adolescents aged 16 to 17 years worked in the U.S. in 2006. [2] Official employment statistics are not available for younger adolescents who are also known to work, especially in agricultural settings. Because of their biologic, social, and economic characteristics, young workers have unique and substantial risks for work-related injuries and illnesses.

In 2006, 30 youth under 18 died from work-related injuries in the U.S. [3] In 2003, an estimated 54,800 work-related injuries and illnesses among youth less than 18 years of age were treated in hospital emergency departments. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that only one-third of work-related injuries are seen in emergency departments, therefore it is likely that approximately 160,000 youth sustain work-related injuries and illnesses each year. [4]

The highest number of teen worker fatalities occur in agricultural work and the retail trades, according to recent data.[5] 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.

Across Europe, 18 to 24-year-olds are at least 50% more likely to be injured in the workplace than more experienced workers.[6]


Number and distribution of fatal occupational injuries by age among young workers, 1992-2002 BLS 2003

Work That Poses Special Risks for Young Workers[edit | edit source]

Agricultural Work[edit | edit source]

Agriculture is the most dangerous industry for young workers, accounting for 42% of all work-related fatalities of young workers between 1992 and 2000. Unlike other industries, half the young victims in agriculture were under age 15. [7]

For young agricultural workers aged 15–17, the risk of fatal injury is four times the risk for young workers in other workplaces [8] Agricultural work exposes young workers to safety hazards such as machinery, confined spaces, work at elevations, and work around livestock.

Workers may legally perform any agricultural task after they reach age 16, whereas they are prohibited from some jobs in other industries until they reach age 18. Furthermore, child labor laws do not cover workers under age 16 who work on their parents’ or guardians’ farms. Between 1992 and 2000, 76% of the fatal injuries to agricultural workers under age 16 involved work in a family business [5].

Work in Retail Trades[edit | edit source]

The second highest number of workplace fatalities among workers younger than age 18 occurred in the retail trades (e.g., restaurants and retail stores). Between 1992 and 2000, 63% of these deaths were due to assaults and violent acts, most of which were homicides. Homicide associated with robbery is the probable cause for one fourth to one half of all young worker fatalities in retail trades. [9] Handling cash, working alone or in small numbers, and working in the late evening and early morning hours may contribute to workplace homicides [NIOSH 1996a] [10].

In 1998, more than half of all work-related nonfatal injuries to young workers occurred in retail trades, more than 60% of which were eating and drinking establishments. Cuts in retail trades were the most common type of injury treated in emergency departments, followed by burns in eating and drinking establishments and bruises, scrapes, and scratches in other retail settings [11]. Common hazards in restaurants include using knives to prepare food, handling hot grease from fryers, working near hot surfaces, and slipping on wet or greasy floors. [12] In addition, certain types of machinery prohibited for use by young workers under current child labor laws are commonly found in retail establishments—including food slicers, paper balers, forklifts, dough and batter mixers, and bread cutting machines. Young workers may choose to operate unfamiliar machinery to prove responsibility, independence, or maturity [13], or they may be instructed to do so by an employer who is unaware of child labor laws or chooses to disregard them.

U.S. Federal and State Programs[edit | edit source]

OSHA The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is the Federal agency with primary responsibility for setting and enforcing standards to promote safe and healthful working conditions for all workers. Employers are responsible for becoming familiar with standards applicable to their establishments and for ensuring a safe working environment.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Healthplays a lead role in efforts to reduce injuries and illnesses among working youth by conducting and supporting science to guide prevention efforts, disseminating findings, and working with others in collaborative outreach.

The U.S. Public Health Service has a Healthy People 2010 objective to reduce youth emergency department injury rates to 3.4 injuries/100 full-time equivalents by 2010. [14] The rate in 2003 was 4.4 injuries/100 full-time equivalents. [15]

Federal Child Labor Laws

A workplace may be fully compliant with OSHA regulations and yet may place young workers at risk of injury or illness if applicable Federal and State child labor laws are not followed. One study estimated that more than three-fourths of employers of young workers were unfamiliar with child labor laws. Lack of awareness of occupational safety and health laws by young workers, adults, and employers has been identified as a major obstacle to preventing injury and illness in young workers [10]. The primary Federal law governing the employment of workers under age 18 is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which is enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration within DOL. Child labor provisions of the FLSA are designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and prohibit their employment in jobs that pose safety or health risks. The FLSA does not cover all young workers. The FLSA applies to an entire business enterprise if the enterprise has annual gross revenues of $500,000 or more. Child Labor Regulation No. 3 restricts hours and specifies allowable employment activities for workers aged 14 and 15.

State Child Labor Laws

States may also have their own child labor laws that are stricter than Federal laws. If a State child labor law is less protective than Federal law, or if no applicable State law exists, Federal child labor laws apply [10].

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Hazardous child labour. World Health Organization. URL accessed on 2007-10-14.
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics [2007]. Employment and Earnings, Annual Averages, Table 15. Employed persons in agriculture and related and in nonagricultural industries by age, sex, and class of worker Data source: Current Population Survey.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics [2007]. National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2006. Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDL 07-1202.
  4. NIOSH- Young Worker Safety and Health. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. URL accessed on 2007-10-05.
  5. NIOSH Update: Preventing Teen Worker Deaths, Injuries: NIOSH Issues New, Expanded Bulletin. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. URL accessed on 2007-10-05.
  6. Too many young people are getting hurt at work. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. URL accessed on 2007-10-14.
  7. NIOSH [2003]. Unpublished analyses of the 1992–2000 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Special Research Files provided to NIOSH by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (includes more detailed data than the research file, but excludes data from New York City). Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, Surveillance and Field Investigations Branch, Special Studies Section. Unpublished database.
  8. BLS [2000]. Report on the youth labor force. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, pp. 58–67.
  9. Windau J, Sygnatur E, Toscano G [1999]. Profile of work injuries incurred by young workers. Monthly Labor Review, June 1999.
  10. NIOSH [1996a]. Current intelligence bulletin 57: Violence in the workplace; risk factors and prevention strategies. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 96–100.
  11. Mardis AL, Pratt SG [2003]. Nonfatal injuries to young workers in the retail trades and service industries in 1998. J Occup Environ Med 45(3):316–323.
  12. NRC/IOM (National Research Council, Institute of Medicine) [1998]. Protecting youth at work: health, safety, and development of working children and adolescents in the United States. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  13. Massachusetts Department of Public Health [1998]. Work-related injuries to teens. Newsletter from the teens at work: injury surveillance and prevention project. Boston, MA: Occupational Health Surveillance Program.
  14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010 . 2nd ed. Understanding and Improving Health and Objectives for Improving Health. 2 vols. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, November 2000.
  15. NIOSH- Young Worker Safety and Health. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. URL accessed on 2007-10-05.

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