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occupational Health Branch

Occupational Health Watch: February 2022

Keeping Young Workers Safe on the Job

The Occupational Health Branch's Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) program recently investigated the death of a 16-year-old tire repair assistant who died when he was crushed by a car that fell off hydraulic jacks when he was changing the oil. The young worker, because of his age, should not have been doing this work. Child labor law prohibits minors under 18 from performing activities that involve the use of a lifting apparatus (the hydraulic jacks). The worker and another 16-year-old working in the same shop also did not have the required work permits, had not been properly trained, and were not properly supervised.

Youth are a relatively small but important part of the U.S. workforce. However, they are at an increased risk for work-related injuries due to their physical, psychological, and social characteristics. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 26 worker deaths under 18 years old and 352 worker deaths 24 years and younger in 2020 nationwide. The same year, the BLS also reported 16,980 non-fatal injuries for workers under 18. These fatalities and injuries are the result of many hazards that can be prevented.

What can employers do to keep young workers safe?Masked individual on the mask safety is our priority is written on the mask

  • Ensure that minors (under 18 years old) only perform work that is allowed by child labor laws. Obtain a work permit (PDF) approved by the minor's school for anyone under 18.
  • Ensure that minors only use equipment that is permitted under child labor laws; clearly label equipment (PDF) that young workers are not allowed to use.
  • Limit minors' work hours to those allowed under child labor laws, based on their age and whether school is in session.
  •  Encourage young workers to report safety and health concerns.

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