How are teens dying and getting injured at work?

Transportation accidents, broadly defined to include almost any moving vehicle, killed 19 of the 22 teens under 18 in the latest BLS Fatal Occupational Injuries report covering 2014. All eight of the youth workers who died under 16 in 2014 died in transportation accidents. One of these accidents involved transportation by horses, one involved a boat, three were on roadways, and three were off roadways.

Of the 14 deaths of teenagers aged 16- and 17 years old, 11 were in transportation accidents. Five of these were roadway accidents, three were non-roadway accidents, and one was in a boat. In this age group, one teen died by fire or ignition of vapors/gases.

Oddly, the percentage of transportation accidents that killed 18- and 19-year-old workers was much lower—only half (killing 21 of 42.) “Contact with objects and equipment” (mostly being struck) killed nine of the remaining 21 and “exposure to harmful substances or environments” killed seven. It is important to note this data does not include farm children who die while doing non-paid work on farms for their parents.

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to accidents both in normal life and at work. Accidents are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 19. In fact, more youth between 10 and 19 die from injuries than die from all other causes combined.

Teen workers are killed in a shocking variety of ways:

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics for all (including adult) workers suggests that male workers are much more at risk than female. In 2012, 92 percent of the workers in America who died in the job were men—only 8 percent were women. Among all worker fatalities:

  • One in seven deaths were from falls;
  • One in six deaths from “contact with objects and equipment;”
  • Four in 10 were caused by transportation accidents;

Women were more than three times as likely to be murdered on the job as men (one in 12 women who die at work are murdered.)


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that for the 10-year period ending in 2007, an annual average of 795,000 young workers (defined as under 25) were treated in hospitals for work injuries—that comes out to nearly 2,200 young workers a day. Young workers under 25 are twice as likely as older workers to experience a non-fatal, work-related injury.

Survey results published in the American Journal of Health Behavior in 2006 found that of 6,810 teens polled, more than half worked and 514 (or 7.5 percent) suffered injuries that caused them to miss three or more days of work.

Safety training and safety awareness could have prevented many of the deaths discussed in this report. The Teens at Work Injury Surveillance System of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health survey teen injured in Massachusetts between 2005 and 2009 found that 51 percent received no safety training. Nearly one in five of the teens worked without a supervisor on site at the time of the injury and nearly six in 10 (58 percent) thought their injury was preventable.

Causes of injuries

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the causes of workplace injuries typically fall into these seven categories:

  1. Unsafe equipment;
  2. Stressful conditions;
  3. Inadequate safety training;
  4. Inadequate supervision;
  5. Dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youth;
  6. Trying to hurry; and
  7. Alcohol and drug use.

Before discussing specific hazards associated with our five most dangerous jobs, NCL warns of work dangers that affect a wide range of teen workers.