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Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States
iors, including substance abuse and minor deviance, insufficient sleep and exercise, and limited time spent with families. Moreover, a high level of investment in work during adolescence has been found to be associated with decreased eventual educational attainment. It should be noted that researchers have often chosen the dividing point of 20 hours of work per week as a convenient way to subdivide hours of work into "low-intensity" and "high-intensity" employment; that division is not based on specific research about 20 hours per se.
Children and adolescents may be exposed to many work-related hazards that can result in injury, illness, or death. About 100,000 young people seek treatment in hospital emergency departments for work-related injuries each year. The average of 70 documented deaths that occur among children and adolescents each year as a result of injuries suffered at work is believed to be an underestimate.
The rate of injury per hour worked appears almost twice as high for children and adolescents as for adults—about 4.9 injured per 100 full-time-equivalent workers among adolescents, compared with 2.8 per 100 full-time-equivalent workers for all workers. The industries with the highest injury rates for young workers are retail stores and restaurants, manufacturing, construction, and public-sector jobs. There is virtually no information on the extent to which young people are exposed to toxic or carcinogenic substances in the work-place, exposures that may cause illnesses many years later.
Work-related deaths of workers 17 years and younger are highest in agriculture, followed by retail trade and construction. The most common causes of work-related deaths among 16-and 17-year-olds involve motor vehicles, electrocutions, and homicides.
Many of the industries that employ large numbers of children and adolescents have higher than average injury rates for workers of all ages, but young workers do not receive adequate health and safety training at work—training that has been linked with reduced injuries and acute illnesses when provided to adult workers who are young or inexperienced. Furthermore, children and adolescents often work with inadequate supervision and at tasks for which they may be developmentally unprepared.
Inexperience, as well as physical, cognitive, and emotional developmental characteristics, may also play a part in the risk of injury faced by young workers. Research on adults finds that inexperience on the job contributes to occupational injuries. It should not be surprising, then, if the inexperience of children and adolescents turns