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April 20, 2012

New Report Calls for Better Standards and Supervision of Young Workers

Young Operator Safety SignIf you have employees under age 20, you'll be interested in a new report released by the Colorado School of Public Health, which states that thousands of American youth are killed or injured on the job each year, often due to poorly regulated work environments. The report, published in Public Health Reports, found that 88 youths under age 20 died from work-related injuries in 2010 while 20,000 missed work in private industry due to occupational-related illness or injury.

Young people comprise a significant part of the U.S. and Canadian labor force. More than 17.6 million workers under age 25 are employed in the U.S. In Canada, nearly three million workers between ages 15 and 24 were employed in 2010. A recent national U.S. study reported that 26 percent of workers younger than 18 worked at least part of the day without an adult supervisor and as many as one-third of them reported not having any health and safety training.

Think Safety Sign 
"We don't tend to think of child labor as a major issue in the U.S. but we should," said the study's lead author. "Laws governing the employment of youth ages 14 to 17 in this country are often very lenient and in the case of family farms virtually non-existent," she added. "From a fatality standpoint, farm work is the most dangerous occupation for kids."

The authors call for stronger federal monitoring of youth worker safety, including assuring that children working on farms are better protected. They are also encouraging more research into preventing workplace injuries among young people.

"Ultimately it's not the responsibility of 15-year-olds to ensure their safety - it's the responsibility of employers," said the author. The project was funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation.

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