National Consumers League

Work in tobacco harvest tops advocacy group’s annual worst teen jobs list

May 28, 2015

Contact: Carol McKay, NCL, 412-945-3242 or 724-799-5392, carolm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC – As millions of American teens begin their summer jobs this week, the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization is warning young workers and their parents to exercise caution when it comes to seasonal work. The National Consumers League (NCL) has issued its annual report on the worst jobs for teens, with work in agriculture topping the list. The organization is also reminding parents and teens that—while jobs provide many benefits—some workplaces present dangers for inexperienced teen workers even in the United States, where a teen is hurt on the job every 9 minutes. In a typical year, a child dies in the United States nearly every 14 days at work.

In the Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens 2015, NCL names the five worst jobs and provides practical advice for staying safe.

NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens in 2015 are: (full report PDF here)

  • Tobacco Harvester
  • Agriculture: Harvesting Crops and Using Machinery
  • Traveling Youth Sales Crews
  • Construction and Height Work
  • Outside Helper: Landscaping, Grounds keeping and Lawn Service

The five jobs share above average risk of injury or fatality rates and/or present a work environment that is dangerous.

“The 2012 withdrawal of proposed federal safety protections for children who work in agriculture means that children are continuing to do hazardous work in agriculture from ages 12 to 16, when they are protected by child labor laws from doing hazardous work in other industries,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s director of child labor advocacy. “For that reason, we’ve reserved two slots on our “five most dangerous jobs” for children working in agriculture: child tobacco harvesters and children who harvest fruits and vegetables or work with farm machinery.”

“A 12-year-old child cannot legally smoke cigarettes, but they can work in 100-degree heat in tobacco fields while they are subjected to nicotine poisoning and dangerous pesticides,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “It’s outrageous, and it’s something we are working hard to fix through our work on the Child Labor Coalition, which NCL founded and co-chairs."

“The National Consumers League issues our Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens report to remind teens and their parents to choose summer jobs wisely,” said Maki. “We want teens to have a safe and productive work experience. The report provides valuable tips and suggestions to ensure that parents can help children protect themselves on the job and help teens be proactive about their own safety.”

Tips for teen workers

NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens report aims to empower teens to ask for needed safety training and say “no” when dangerous tasks are requested. NCL wants youth workers to say “no” to jobs that involve:

  • door-to-door sales, especially out of the youth’s neighborhood;
  • long-distance traveling away from parental supervision;
  • extensive driving or being driven;
  • driving forklifts, tractors, and other potentially dangerous vehicles;
  • the use of dangerous machinery;
  • the use of chemicals;
  • working in grain storage facilities; and
  • work on ladders or work that involves heights where there is a risk of falling.

To learn more about the Five Most Dangerous Jobs, visit www.nclnet.org. To read the full report, click here (PDF).

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.