As school ends, millions of teens start looking for summer jobs. While jobs can build good work habits, they can also cause death and injury, especially those involving agriculture, construction, landscaping and driving.
In its annual report, the Five Worst Teen Jobs, the National Consumers League (NCL) is calling for parents and teens alike to reconsider the serious dangers of many forms of summer employment.
Every 30 seconds, a young worker is injured on the job, and one teen dies from a workplace injury every five days, government figures show. According to the Department of Labor, fatalities among working youth climbed to 175 deaths in 2001.
"Too many young people earn money during their summers off at a high personal cost. Working to help save for college, contribute to your family's budget, or just to enjoy some spending cash is a great idea, but teenagers and their parents need to ask: is this safe work?" said NCL Vice President for Fair Labor Standards Policy Darlene Adkins. "These five worst jobs identify serious dangers that working youth can avoid."
For the first time this year, working outside as helpers in landscaping, groundskeeping, and lawn services has made the list of dangerous jobs. Just last month, a Florida teen was electrocuted while trimming trees.
NCL compiles the five worst teen jobs each year using government statistics and reports, results from the Child Labor Coalition's annual survey of state labor departments, and news accounts of injuries and deaths. Statistics and examples of injuries for each job on the list are detailed in a report available at www.nclnet.org/labor/childlabor.
2005's Five Worst Teen Jobs
Agriculture: Field Work and Processing Agriculture is the most dangerous industry for young workers, accounting for 42 percent of all work-related fatalities of young workers between 1992 and 2000. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, among young agricultural workers aged 15-17, the risk of fatal injury is four times the risk for young workers in other workplaces.
Construction and Work in Heights Despite existing prohibitions that address specific types of hazardous construction work, it remains the third leading cause of death among young workers. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), youth 15-17 years of age working in construction had greater than seven times the risk for fatal injury as youth in other industries, and greater than twice the risk of workers 25-44 years of age working in construction.
Outside Helper: Landscaping, Groundskeeping, and Lawn Service Landscaping, groundskeeping and lawn service work often involves the use of dangerous power tools, such as chain saws and machinery such as tractors, all-terrain vehicles, and mulchspreaders. Workers also often work with pesticides, fertilizers, and other hazardous chemicals. Fatality numbers are low, yet recent anecdotal evidence indicates that young workers are using tools and equipment that are prohibited for their use in this industry and are being injured as a result.
Driver/Operator of Forklifts, Tractors and All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) Tractor-related accidents are the most prevalent cause of agricultural fatality in the United States. Increasingly, tractors are being used in non-agricultural work as well, with resulting injuries and fatalities to young workers. Workers of all ages are killed and seriously injured by forklifts. Although most deaths involving driving/operating forklifts, nearly half of all forklift-related deaths were caused by working around them - being run over, struck by the machine or its cargo, or pinned by a forklift, or riding as a passenger. Increasingly, ATVs are showing up in the workplace and follow the same risk of overturns and rollovers as tractors. Persons under the age of 16 were the victims of 38 percent of all reported ATV-related deaths for all ages between 1982 and 2001.
Traveling Youth Crews Recruited to sell candy, magazine subscriptions, and other items door-to-door or on street corners, children as young as ten years old often work after dark, under dangerous conditions, and unsupervised by adults. For many, it is a job that requires traveling in vans to unfamiliar neighborhoods in distant cities, and often across state lines. Each year, thousands of mostly 16-24-year-olds join traveling sales crews that move rapidly around the country. Hazards include questionable transportation as well as crew leaders with criminal convictions and behavior. The watchdog group Parent Watch has compiled a list of dozens of felonies involving door-to-door salespeople, including 13 cases of rape or sexual assault, four cases of murder, and a number of deaths from traffic accidents attributed to faulty equipment or negligent driving -- since 2000.
"It's important for teens and parents to know that all jobs can be hazardous, not just the ones on this list," said Adkins. To promote safe work, NCL has released tips for working teens and advice for parents. All materials are available online at nclnet.org/childlabor.