National Consumers League

Work in Ag Tops Five Worst Teen Jobs


By Lauren Perez, NCL Communications Intern Lauren Perez is the communications intern at the National Consumers League.  She is a senior at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA.  She is majoring in Journalism and Political Science. With school out and summer underway, many teens are already employed. The National Institute for Occupations Health and Safety reported that 2.6 million youth ages 15-17 are employed. Just last year, in 2008, 34.2% of teens were employed in summer jobs. Each year, NCL advises teens and their parents about how to choose a summer job carefully; even legal work for teens pose hidden dangers and some jobs out there are illegal for teens to perform altogether. NCL recently released the 2009 Five Worst Teen Jobs report, a list of the top five jobs that pose the most potential danger to teen workers. Throughout this summer, we will be highlighting each of the most dangerous jobs, detailing the hazards on the job and providing more information on how youth workers can stay safe. First up: Agriculture: Harvesting Crops Agriculture work is the most dangerous for young workers. Youth workers in agriculture can be subject to overexertion, high-intensity noise and contact with chemicals. Long hours working in the sun can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke and being exposed to dust, gas and moldy hay can create respiratory problems. Agricultural job hazards also include using heavy machinery, especially tractors. From 1992 – 2000, 42% of youth workers killed were in farming jobs and one third of these fatalities involved tractors. In 2002, an 11-year-old boy was killed when the tractor he was using to move large bales of hall rolled over. The boy was working alone and was found when he did not return to the farm. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health urges young workers to know and follow safe work practices, such as wearing seatbelts when provided, being properly trained and using equipment that is appropriate for their size and age. NIOSH also recommends that young workers use protective clothing and sunblock, take breaks from working in the sun and drink plenty of water. Youth who work in agriculture are limited by the Fair Labor Standards Act in the type of work and amount of work that they may do. Youth agricultural workers must be at least 14 years of age. Workers who are between the ages of 14 and 15 may only work outside of school hours in non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs. Youth workers aged 16 to 17 may perform any non-hazardous job for unlimited hours. Child Labor Laws restrict young workers under the age of 16 from handling certain chemicals and pesticides. When working with chemicals, employers are required to provide training to all workers who will be in contact with the chemicals six days prior to the start of work. State laws may also have more strict laws for employers to follow when hiring youth workers. The U.S. Department of Labor can provide more information on state child labors laws for agricultural jobs. NCL has also assembled tips for teens and their parents here. Next up: Construction and Height Work.