Jobs for teens are an important part of youth development, providing both needed income and teaching valuable work skills. A survey from Citigroup and Seventeen magazine released in August of 2013, found that almost 80 percent of students take at least a part-time job during the school year. Many teens take summer jobs. A job can build confidence, teach social skills, and provide an array of other benefits. According to research in the January/February 2011 issue of Child Development, teen jobs decrease the likelihood working teens will drop out of school—as long as teens work 20 hours or less each week during the school year—and they increase future earnings [Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies].
However, there are dangers associated with teen work. In a typical year, 25-35 children die at work in the U.S. Twenty years ago, that number was over 70. To some extent, these dropping numbers are a result of fewer teens working. Since the recession of 2007, too many teens have been competing for too few jobs. The summer of 2014, however, saw some improvement in the summer teen job market. The youth unemployment rate in July was 13.6 percent—the lowest rate in 6 years. However that rate is still over twice the adult unemployment rate. We believe that health and safety education efforts are also helping to reduce teen fatalities.
Every 12 and a half days a child dies at work. In 2012, 29 children died while working. That number may seem small compared to the more than 4,500 adults who died that year, but for every family that loses a teen, their preventable deaths are an unspeakable tragedy.
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. Jobs held by teenagers 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.
Many teens lack the experience and sense of caution needed to protect themselves from workplace jobs. In scientific speak, “young workers have unique and substantial risks for work-related injuries…because of their biologic, social, and economic characteristics.” They are reluctant to refuse to do tasks just because they are dangerous or to ask for safety information. Research on the developing brain suggests that there are neurological reasons why teens do not always evaluate dangers properly—that portion of their brain is still developing.
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.