University Reports on the Younger Face of Workplace Safety

Industrial / Construction, Safety News

Young hourly waged workers experience an injury every nine minutes on the job. In 2012 alone, more than 170,000 young workers were injured in the workplace and 361 were killed. That means one teen work injury occurs about every nine minutes – equivalent to about 200,000 non-fatal injuries, and about 70 fatal injuries each year. These startling statistics come from an article recently published by the Eastern Kentucky University College of Justice and Safety.

There are more than 18 million US workers age 24 or younger, and these young workers are 2 times more likely to visit the ER with a job-related injury as older workers. Agriculture is the most hazardous occupation for working youths. Construction ranks second.

Interestingly, the more likely there is to be danger to a young person, the more likely they are to be found in that profession. Traditionally safe professions such as office work have the lowest proportion of young workers.

Why They Are Injured
Why are young people so commonly injured? They lack experience, and they work with dangerous equipment. That’s a recipe for trouble at any age, but especially in this age group. Half of young workers use power tools in the workplace, and around a quarter of them use deep fryers. Many others use heavy machinery or work on scaffolding or ladders. Unfortunately, less than half of them receive safety training on these devices.

Workplace Hazards

There are various types of workplace equipment that can lead to teenage worker injuries. Some 50 percent of working teens use power tools, 25 percent use fryers and food slicers, 17 percent manage heavy machinery, and 30 percent use machinery, vehicles, ladders and scaffolding.

Agriculture remains the most hazardous occupation for working teens, as 65 percent of youths aged 16 and under perish due to deaths related to this particular industry. According to data, 60 percent of these deaths happen on family farms. The study shows that teens are four times more likely to die than adults in the agriculture industry.

Construction is a close second to the agriculture industry, as teens are two times more likely to die than adults. Data shows that 45 percent of teen construction workers were given four or less hours of safety training.

What Can Be Done?
Start with supervision. About half of young workers perform their duties without nearby supervision, and 25 percent of youths in retail and service industries lack adult supervision at least 1 day/week. In 2011, North Carolina records linked 35 percent of worker fatalities to unsupervised young workers.

Young workers also need training, such as safety videos and training to deal with real-life issues that are relevant to younger workers – like discussing the dangers of cell phone usage during work hours. The article states that 33 to 45 percent of working teenagers do not receive any safety training. These workers also need hands-on experience to safely use tools, and proper safety equipment (PPE) that fits them correctly.

A buddy system can promote teenage worker safety, ideally pairing a teen with an experienced adult worker who can answer questions regarding work-related safety hazards. These tactics will help keep teenage workers safe, as it will provide them the knowledge they need to go about their tasks in a safe manner.

Lastly, more than 30 percent of teen workers say that they feel rushed. Thus, it would be best to give them more time, instead of making them hurry to finish the job, as this can lead to accidents and fatalities.


View the EKU infographic on young worker safety.
Visit the OSHA Young Workers Resources page.
Visit the NIOSH Young Worker Safety and Health page.
Browse Industrial Hazard Safety Signs at