In late July 2011, two 14-year-olds girls, Jade Garza and Hannah Kendall went off to their temporary job of detasseling corn in a field in northwestern Illinois where they worked for the Monsanto Corporation. The girls were close friends and performing a job that many teens in the Midwest perform safely. The day was not especially unusual except the field was very wet. Somehow, one of the girls made contact with a center-pivot irrigation system that had become charged with electricity. A tremendous current went through her body. The second girl went to help and was electrocuted. Within seconds, the two girls were dead. A 13-year-old boy, working nearby wanted to help but realized that if he touched them, he would die too.
Their friends, their teachers, their families were devastated. In a typical year, 25-35 children die at work in the U.S. Fifteen years ago, that number was over 70.
This report is an attempt to educate the public about workplace dangers teen workers face with the hope that teenagers, their parents, and employers can work together to reduce accidents and fatalities. Summer jobs can contribute meaningfully to a child’s development and maturity and teach new skills and responsibilities, but the safety of each job must be a consideration.
In the following pages, the National Consumers League (NCL) identifies five teen jobs that are more dangerous than most and provides tips to help teens improve their chances of having a safe and rewarding work experience.