Americans between 15 and 24 years old are up to 2.3 times more likely to get injured on the job than workers who are 25 and over.
Recent research by Prof Dina Rohlman of the University of Iowa, has examined the higher incidence of workplace injuries among American workers aged 15 to 24 compared to older workers.
Factors contributing to this vulnerability include having less time to become aware of many common workplace hazards, bodies that are still developing physically and cognitively, and a reluctance to speak up.
Despite these risks, Arkansas, Iowa and other states have recently weakened labour laws, allowing young workers to perform more dangerous tasks.
Duvan Tomas Perez, for example, died on the job while cleaning machinery in the Mar-Jac Poultry plant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in August 2023. Perez was 16. So was Michael Schuls, who died in June 2023 while attempting to unjam a wood-stacking machine at Florence Hardwoods, a Wisconsin lumber company. Will Hampton, another 16-year-old, also died that month in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, while working at a landfill.
Teachers at a Nebraska middle school figured out that students who had trouble staying awake at school were working night shifts at a slaughterhouse, doing dangerous cleaning work that caused chemical burns.
Federal Fair Labor Standards Act sets standards for workplace safety for workers under 18 Recent enforcement efforts have had to be stepped up due to increasing violations.
The Labor Department found 4,474 children employed in violation of federal child labour laws between Oct. 1, 2022, and July 20, 2023. Employers, including McDonald’s and Sonic fast-food franchisees, owed more than $6.6 million in penalties as a result.
Strategies ensuring the well-being of young workers as they gain valuable experience include providing comprehensive training, modelling safe behaviours, and being mindful of young workers' abilities when assigning tasks.