power press is associated with age: The youngest press operators were at the greatest risk of amputation. In a study of factory workers, Van Zelst (1954) found that accident rates were highest in the first 5 months on a new job for all adult workers, but that younger workers consistently had accident rates above those of older workers. Based on workers' compensation data from nine states, Mitchell (1988) found higher rates of injury among workers under 25 years of age, although the more serious injuries were among older workers. LaFlamme et al. (1996) found similar results among Swedish miners.
In an examination of factors related to injury rates among petroleum-drilling workers, Mueller et al. (1987) found that age, rate of job changes, and rate of rig transfers each had independent effects on injury rates. Length of time on the job had little effect when the influence of age was statistically excluded from the analysis. The highest injury rates were observed among workers under the age of 25 when another risk factor, such as inexperience, job change, or rig transfer, was present. In contrast, Leigh (1986) studied a subset of a nationally representative sample of adult employees and concluded that job characteristics, including length of time on the job, were better predictors of hazardous incidents than were personal characteristics, including age. Age was only predictive when job characteristics were not taken into account.
None of these studies looked at children or adolescents. Because children and adolescents are, by definition, young, age most likely plays a role in their high rates of work-related injury. Findings like those of Mueller and colleagues (1987) suggest that it may be the interaction of age with job stressors, such as inexperience, that result in higher rates of injury for children and adolescents than for adults. The ways in which the relationship between injury rates and age, experience, and hazard exposure for children and adolescents differs from that of adults remains to be examined.
Adolescence is a unique period, marked by the second most rapid period of growth in an individual's life (infancy is first). Three aspects of development occur during adolescence—physical, cognitive, and emotional growth—each of which may affect young workers.