Teens Face Increased Risk of on-the-job Injuries

WHILE young workers face many of the same on-the-job risks as their adult counterparts, they are more likely to be injured at work than adult workers, according to the authors of an article in the American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Safety Journal's June issue.

With summer comes the rush for teens to find a summer job, yet safety is not one of their main concerns. However, according to federal statistics, teens are injured at a rate of at least two times higher than adult workers in some occupational sectors. Nationally, approximately 230,000 teens suffer work-related injuries each year, with 77,000 of those seeking emergency room care. The authors note that more than 80 percent of these injuries occur in the retail or service industries.

Teens' age and inexperience contributes to their increased risk for injury. Unlike adults, adolescents have less developed cognitive abilities, physical coordination and overall maturity, and experience a rapidly changing physiology. Additionally, teens may not feel empowered to report concerns or fears when addressing a dangerous workplace situation.

Much is being done to educate teens, parents, employers and communities on what they can do to prevent teen workplace injuries and illnesses. Many states and organizations, such as ASSE and their members, are working together to help prevent teen injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Those collaborations include volunteer workplace safety instruction in the high schools, YouthRules! rallies in various cities such as Houston and web sites such as http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fedNet, http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/teenworkers, http://www.youngworkers.org, http://www.uwworksafe.com/worksafe, http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd and http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-flsa.htm.

Teens, parents and employers should become familiar with federal and state laws such as the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, know what safety questions to ask the employer before starting a new job, be aware of the types of hazards teens can face at work, seek safety training, and know what teens can do on their own to avoid safety and health risks.

The authors of the article are Principal of Creative Safety Solutions and ASSE member Cynthia Lewis, MSPH, of Santa Fe, Texas; director of OSHA's Office of Occupational Health Nursing Elise Handelman, R.N., M.Ed., COHN-S; and Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Occupational Health Nurse and Child Labor Specialist Mary E. Miller, R.N., M.N. They wrote the article in an effort to increase safety awareness for teen workers among teens, parents, employers, schools and communities.

The article, "Protecting Young Workers -- Coordinated Strategies Help To Raise Safety Awareness," can be accessed in PDF format at http://www.asse.org/professionalsafety/docs/38_MilleretalFeature_June2007.pdf. For a copy of the free ASSE "Important Workplace Safety Guide for Young Workers" brochure, contact ASSE customer service at customerservice@asse.org, 847-699-2929 or download it at http://www.asse.org/newsroom.

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