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Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States
faced by adults in similar occupations, ranging from hot grease, large machinery, and unstable ladders to pesticides and other toxic chemicals.
Young workers are congregated in jobs that are characterized by the absence of opportunities for significant promotion within the firm, high turnover, little on-the-job training, limited scope for worker discretion or application of skill, heightened job insecurity, wide variation and uncertainty in hours, low pay, and few benefits (Doeringer and Piore, 1971; Osterman, 1982, 1988; Tilly, 1991, 1996). Jobs with these characteristics are, in general, more dangerous than those without them. For example, one study found the incidence of occupational injuries and illnesses positively associated with authoritarian work structures and negatively associated with on-the-job training, promotion opportunity, job security, and wages (Robinson, 1988). Using data from the Ontario workers' compensation system, a third study linked high lost-work-time frequency rates to high rates of turnover, low amounts of worker autonomy, and low ''long-term career commitment from employees" (Shannon et al., 1996). Finally, Robinson (1991) found that the risk of occupational injury is weakly correlated with the absence of promotion opportunity, moderately correlated with lack of control over work, and strongly correlated with the lack of on-the-job training and job security.
Jobs with the above characteristics are likely to be in small businesses. Researchers have found a negative relationship between a firm's size and its employees' risk of injury or death (Hunting and Weeks, 1993; Mendeloff and Kagey, 1990). There are many reasons that the safety records of small companies could be expected to be worse than those of large companies: Small firms tend to have high turnover, which means more inexperienced workers (Hunting and Weeks, 1993); they are more exposed to market pressure, which may lead them to cut corners on safety; and they have fewer resources to fall back on for improving their safety performance. NIOSH's 1988 National Occupational Exposure Survey, for instance, found that establishments with fewer than 100 workers took significantly fewer steps—such as providing training, conducting inspections, and using safety professionals—to ensure the safety of employees (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1988).