found that 80 percent of work-related injuries suffered by adolescents occurred when no supervisor was present. Some work schedules, such as those involving long or unusually late or early hours, may contribute to fatigue in adolescents, and fatigue is associated with an increased likelihood of injury (Miller, 1995; Rosa, 1995). Working alone or late at night may also be a risk factor for work-related assaults associated with robberies (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 1996).
On one job, we were using these power saws. I knew how to use it, but if I ever got cut.... I mean I wasn't supposed to be doing it since I was only 15.
High school student Youth panel for the committee
Another issue that is just beginning to be recognized is the assignment of youths to jobs other than the ones they were hired to perform. Davis and Frank (1997) reported a wide discrepancy between job titles and "tasks ever done" by the employees who held the jobs. For example, a cashier in a fast-food restaurant may also regularly be asked to cook or clean; see Table 3-5. Anecdotal reports indicate that when there is a shortage of staff, young workers are often assigned to fill in on a variety of tasks for which they have had no preparation. Even if all the tasks are age-appropriate and performing them provides opportunities to explore new responsibilities, the assignment of a multiplicity of tasks has important implications for job-skills training and health and safety training.
Injury-control experts understand that prevention of workplace injuries requires that primary attention be focused on the elimination of hazards. At the same time, it is important to examine factors specific to young workers that may place them at risk, which include inexperience, lack of physical or emotional maturity, and the need to balance school and work. The fact that developmental characteristics may play a role in young workers' injury rates in no way implies that children and adolescents are to blame for their own injuries.