Accidents are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 19. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to accidents at work. A 2006 survey found that 1 in 13 youth had been injured on the job. In 2008, 34 workers under 18 died in the workplace.

NCL’s 2016 Five Most Dangerous Jobs For Teens

The National Consumers League’s annual guide to help working teens stay safe in the workplace

An 18-year-old worker was killed when a silo collapsed at this construction site in 2015.

An 18-year-old worker was killed when a silo collapsed at this construction site in Virginia in 2015.

Report author: Reid Maki, Director of Child Labor Advocacy,

National Consumers League  [This update issued June 2016. “The Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens” report is updated annually.]

Section Index

  1. Introduction: Teens continue to get killed and hurt at work
  2. What are the Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens?
  3. Job one: Tobacco harvester
  4. Job two: Agriculture: Other types of farm workharvesting crops and using machinery
  5. Job three: Outside helper, landscaping, tree-trimming, groundskeeping, and lawn service
  6. Job four: Construction and height work
  7. Job five: Traveling sales crews
  8. How are teen workers dying and getting injured at work?
  9. Other work hazards to be aware of

10. Tips for staying safe at work

11. Recommendations to protect teens at work

12. Conclusion

  1. Introduction: Teens continue to get killed and hurt at work

Nearly 5,000 workers die on the job each year—each day, an average of 13 workers are killed on the job—some of those workers are teenagers. Each of those deaths are torture for the friends and family of the child worker.

Thousands of children are hurt on the job each year. Many parents don’t think about their children getting hurt at work, but according to the Children’s Safety network, about every 9 minutes, a U.S. teen is hurt on the job.

In a typical year, 20-30 children die on the job in the U.S. Twenty years ago, that number was over 70 per year. In 2012, 29 children died while working. In 2013, that number fell sharply to 14, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The National Consumers League (NCL) was curious—and hopeful—to see if that drastic drop in fatalities would continue, but sadly, it did not.

According to the BLS data for 2014, the most recent data that is available, 21 young workers under the age of 18 died in the U.S.—a 50 percent increase over the prior year. Although alarming, the 50 percent increase in the number of teen deaths between 2013 and 2014 would seem to represent a reversion to recent average fatality totals and the 2013 drop would seem to be an aberration. The increase bears watching however to ensure that the number does not continue to climb.


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Conclusion of “The Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens” report and a final note

 One hundred years ago, 100 workers died each day in America. Today, that number—with a U.S. population 3.5 times greater—is 13. While the loss of many manufacturing and farm jobs explains some of this drop, it doesn’t explain it all. Safety training, education, and regulation works.

Teen workplace fatality rates have also been dropping over time thanks to the efforts of working teens, parents, employers, advocacy groups, and state and federal authorities. Twenty years ago, three times as many teens died at work as they do now.

Teen work deaths are preventable. Avoiding the most dangerous jobs is a starting point, and empowering beginning workers to recognize and avoid dangerous situations is also critical. “I don’t feel safe doing that” is a sentence that every parent should rehearse with their teen before they start a new job.

With vigilance, we can continue to reduce the number of children and teens killed in the workplace.

A final note to the families of victims of workplace fatalities and injuries:

We work with family members of victims of workplace accidents to educate the public so that similar tragedies do not occur. We use the names of victims and specific details of the accidents for the same reason. If you believe that sharing the story of your family member may prevent other accidents, please contact us at


NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens is updated annually using data from NIOSH, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CDC, and other sources. The report’s author is Reid Maki, NCL’s director of child labor advocacy and the coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition.Read the rest

Recommendations to Protect Teens at Work

 What can employers do to make teen work safer?

Employers must comply with child labor laws, provide safety training to young workers, follow all mandates safety regulations, and be vigilant about providing a safe workplace and all required safety equipment. They need to encourage open dialogue about safety with young workers who might be too shy to raise concerns.

Efforts in the area of enhanced safety not only save lives, they also save companies’ bottom line. The journal Pediatrics estimates that farm injuries cost farmers $1.4 billion a year. According to Katherine Harmon, an editor at Scientific American, a recent study also found that companies that had just one safety inspection saved 26 percent on worker compensation claims on average. The average amount saved per company over a five-year period: $355,000.

What can the federal and state governments do?

The U.S. Department of Labor and state agencies must enforce the laws and conduct regular reviews to ensure that new workplace hazards are dealt with. Hazardous Orders updates need to be conducted in a timely fashion. DOL should reconsider its ill-advised decision not to reintroduce occupational protections for children in agriculture during the Obama Administration. Companies that repeatedly violate child labor laws should not have their fines reduced.

We call on President Obama to break his unfathomable promise to the agricultural lobby to never update protections for children working in agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Labor also needs to publicize its work to enforce the nation’s child labor laws—something it has backed off from in recent years.… Read the rest

Another teen job to avoid: Jobs that present an elevated risk of violence

According to findings from the 2013 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, violence accounted for one out of every six fatal work injuries in 2013. Between 1992 and 2012, over 700 homicides a year occurred in workplaces.

Restaurants and retail establishments hold elevated risks of workplace violence. According to 2010 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three of the 34 youth workers who died that year succumbed to assaults or violent acts. If you include 18- and 19-year-olds, 15 of the 90 workers between the ages of 16 and 19 who died at work in 2010 perished from violent acts.

  • In March 2016, a man eating in a Church’s Chicken restaurant in Philadelphia became enraged, left, and returned a short time later with a gun and shot a 19-year-old worker three times.
  • 19-year-old Peter Meilke was gunned down while working in a pizza place in Bellaire, Texas in February 2016. Police said that Meilke appeared to comply with the robbers demands but they shot him anyway.
  • In April 2012, a 16-year-old, Mokbel Mohamed “Sam” Almujanhi, in Farmville, North Carolina was shot to death during the robbery of a convenience store. Almujanhi worked for his father who owned the store, where two other men were also murdered by the robbers.
  • In January 2010, an Illinois teenager was beaten and sexually assaulted after being abducted from the sandwich shop where she worked alone at night. In some inner cities, young fast-food workers have reported routinely having to deal with gang members who come in to harass and rob them.
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