The summer job is a rite of passage for many teenagers, but it can also pose risks if safety precautions are not in place.
About 1.5 million teenagers work in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each year about 40 die from work-related injuries and tens of thousands suffer nonfatal injuries.
Dr. Kimberly Rauscher, an associate professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences and faculty affiliate of the WVU Injury Control Research Center, discussed the problem of adolescent workplace injury on the “Public Health Minute with William Latimer,” airing this month on select NPR stations around the country.
“This is an issue we don’t think about a lot, but while work is often positive for youth, it can have harmful consequences as well,” Rauscher said.
Most teenagers work in retail and service industries where the majority of the nonfatal injuries to teens occur, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the most lethal industries for teens to work in are agriculture and construction.
Rauscher cautioned that “young workers are inexperienced and often unaware of the hazards in their workplaces, so it is critical that they be given proper training and supervision to help keep them safe.”
“Employers must follow the child labor laws that limit the jobs youth can perform, and enforcement agencies must hold them accountable,” she said, adding that closer to home, parents should talk to their working teens, ask if they have safety concerns at work and help them talk to their bosses if they feel unsafe.
Rauscher and Dr. Douglas Myers, also a faculty member in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, are developing the first comprehensive national profile of workplace violence against young workers. The research project, a collaboration with Drs. Carri Casteel and Cori Peek-Asa of the University of Iowa, is funded by a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The “Public Health Minute with William Latimer” airs on 12 NPR affiliates in 14 states: WUFT, KBFT, KTXK, WVAS, KUMD, WTIP, WOJB, KGLT, WMSV, WCBU, KVNO and WHBU.