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Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States
job. The few studies of the effects of training on injuries among adolescents have examined health and safety training, but they have not examined the importance of job-skills training. In adult workers, the incidence of work-related injuries and illnesses has been found to be negatively associated with on-the-job training (Robinson, 1988, 1991). Workers who report no on-the-job training are 1.5 to 2.5 times as likely as other workers to have hazardous occupations (Robinson, 1991). It would be interesting to examine whether the role of jobs-skills training is different from or complementary to that of health and safety training in reducing injuries among young workers.
The Work Environment: Inappropriate Assignments and Structure
Work-related injuries and illnesses may also occur because children and adolescents are asked to or attempt to perform tasks for which they are developmentally not ready (see discussion of physiological development below). Very little research has been done on defining developmentally appropriate job tasks, which leaves employees to rely on Hazardous Orders, issued under the Fair Labor Standards Act, that prohibit young people from performing certain tasks (see Chapter 6). Studies indicate that working in legally prohibited occupations is a contributing factor to teens being injured or killed at work. For example, Knight et al. (1995) found that 19 percent of youth with work-related injuries who were treated in emergency departments appeared to have been injured in jobs declared to be hazardous or typically prohibited for their age by federal laws governing child labor. Of 104 deaths of children and adolescents investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from 1984 through 1987, 41 percent involved youths engaged in work prohibited by federal child labor laws (Suruda and Halperin, 1991). However, many youths are injured or killed while doing legally allowed tasks.
The structure of some work settings may also be inappropriate for teens. Greenberger and Steinberg (1986) noted a lack of adult supervision of young people on the job: The average young worker spent only 12 percent of his or her time in the presence of a supervisor. Inadequate supervision and certain aspects of work schedules have been associated with injuries on the job. Knight et al. (1995)