hazards assumes an 8-hour working day and a 40-hour working week over a lifetime of working. Because young people typically work part time, often in short-term jobs, many of their exposures to health hazards do not exceed existing standards. The short-term nature of their exposures may preclude or mitigate the potential long-term health effects, but there are challenging scientific questions about whether young people are more susceptible than adults, about how an individual's age at the time of first exposure affects the severity of any health consequences, and about the effects of multiple exposures over a working lifetime. There are also important policy considerations about what risks are acceptable for working children and adolescents.
It seems clear that work may pose substantial safety risks for young workers, and there is evidence of potential health risks as well. The overall injury rates suggest that young workers may be at greater risk than adults. Identification of the factors that place children and adolescents at risk in the workplace is essential for developing effective preventive efforts. These factors include characteristics of the work, the work environment, and the interaction between them and young workers.
This section examines factors that raise special concerns about working youth. It begins with a discussion of the concentration of young workers in certain types of work environments and addresses the issues of inadequate health and safety training, inadequate supervision, and inappropriate or illegal job assignments. The section then turns to the children and adolescents themselves and discusses the characteristics that may increase their risk of work-related injury or illness: inexperience, the need to balance school and work, fatigue, and developmental factors.
Many of the industries that employ large numbers of children and adolescents—grocery stores, hospitals and nursing homes, and agriculture—have higher-than-average injury rates for workers of all ages. Children and adolescents face the same workplace hazards