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NIOSH Assesses Young Worker Fatality Trends

Jul 17, 2017

GettyImages-518507538NIOSH has published Young Worker Injury Deaths: A Historical Summary of  Surveillance and Investigative Findings. The report includes data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries of young worker deaths that occurred between 1994 and 2013. The information is presented according to demographic characteristics, employer characteristics, incident circumstances and temporal patterns. During this time period, 942 occupational fatalities occurred among youth workers, 88% of whom were male.

Between 2009 and 2013, an average of 2 million adolescents age 17 or younger worked during summer months, and 1.5 million were employed during school months, NIOSH says. According to BLS, a majority of adolescents work before they finish high school. "These youth primarily worked in the services industry, which includes restaurants, and the trade industry,  which includes retail establishments," NIOSH says.

The four industries with the highest fatality numbers for working youth from 1994 to 2013 were agriculture production (389 deaths), services (181 deaths), construction (143 deaths) and retail trade (65 deaths), the report says.

Both the rate and the number of fatalities among working youth has declined since 2000. NIOSH suggests this may be partially due to a decrease in the number of youth workers, as well as a trend of youth workers in lower risk occupations or industries.

The overwhelming majority of these fatalities were due to events involving vehicles, NIOSH says, which accounted for 48% of the deaths. According to a separate report published by NIOSH in 2013, younger workers are at a higher risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash at work than adult workers ages 25 or older. From 2003 to 2010, NIOSH says the majority of work-related motor vehicle fatalities among youth workers were in the waste management industry.

Within the construction industry, NIOSH found a correlation between worker age and the number of fatalities. According to the report, 84% of the fatalities in construction were 16- and 17- year-old workers and 16% were age 15 or younger.

NIOSH says the document is intended for use by:

  • federal and state agencies—to inform regulatory changes, enforcement strategies, and educational efforts;
  • employers and educators—to develop policies and practices, training programs, and outreach and educational products; 
  • researchers—to guide future research efforts; 
  • qquipment manufacturers, distributors, and rental companies—to guide outreach and educational efforts.

NIOSH also created a document with information and advice for employers and a document for parents of youth workers.

Originally published July 19, 2017.

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