National Consumers League

Teens: avoid this year's most dangerous summer work

92_help_wanted.jpgIt's that time of year again: teens are starting their summer jobs. Having a job can be an important part of youth development, but the worst work - the ones on this year's Five Most Dangerous Teen Jobs - should be avoided! Jobs for teens are an important part of growing up and becoming an adult, providing both needed income and teaching valuable work skills. According to research, teen jobs increase future earnings and also decrease the likelihood the working teen will drop out of school.

Jobs for teens are an important part of growing up and becoming an adult, providing both needed income and teaching valuable work skills. According to research, teen jobs increase future earnings and also decrease the likelihood the working teen will drop out of school. The National Consumers League (NCL) provides its annual update of its Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens to help teenagers and their parents make safer job choices and to increase awareness of job dangers they may encounter.

Each day in America, a teen is hurt on the job every 9 minutes. In a typical year, a U.S. child dies nearly every 14 days at work.

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NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens in 2016:

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

These five jobs hold special dangers for working youth. The dangers of each job are explored in the report and real life examples of what can go wrong when teens are not protected in the workplace are given. Agriculture, construction, landscaping, and machinery operators all experience much higher occupational injury and fatality rates. And traveling sales crews expose vulnerable working teens to many dangers including vehicle accidents, arrest, sexual exploitation, and workplace violence.

Teen workers are dying

  • Farmhand Heather Marie Barley, 17, of Buckley, Michigan died suddenly while working on a hog farm in December 2015. Elevated levels of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide were suspected to have come from a steam generator connected to a pressure washer.
  • On his first day on the job feeding tree limbs into a wood chipper, in December 2015, 19-year-old Mason Cox in Gastonia, North Carolina died instantly when his body was pulled into the chipper. His employer was so disturbed by the incident that he had a heart attack.
  • December 2015: 19-year-old Oscar Martin-Refugio was shot in the heart by robbers as he worked in a Bridgeport, Connecticut pizza shop. He died soon after.
  • Grant Thompson, 18, died from a snakebite while working in his parents’ pet shop in Austin, Texas in July 2015.
  • In October 2014, 18-year-old Jeremy McSpadden, Jr., of Spokane Valley, Washington was working as an actor at a Halloween haunted hayride when died tragically after losing his footing and falling under the rear wheel of a bus. 

Tips for teen workers

NCL’s Five Most Dangerous Jobs for Teens provides practical tips for teenagers considering their job choices and practical suggestions for parents so that they can talk to their sons and daughters and instill a sense of safety consciousness that will help protect them on the job, empowering them to ask for needed safety training and say “no” when dangerous tasks are requested.

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.

Know the legal limits
To protect young workers like you, state and federal laws limit the hours you can work and the kinds of work you can do. For state and federal child labor laws, visit Youth Rules.

Play it safe
Always follow safety training. Working safely and carefully may slow you down, but ignoring safe work procedures is a fast track to injury. There are hazards in every workplace — recognizing and dealing with them correctly may save your life.

Ask questions
Ask for workplace training — like how to deal with irate customers or how to perform a new task or use a new machine. Tell your supervisor, parent, or other adult if you feel threatened, harassed, or endangered at work.

Make sure the job fits
If you can only work certain days or hours, if you don’t want to work alone, or if there are certain tasks you don’t want to perform, make sure your employer understands and agrees before you accept the job.

Trust your gut
Following directions and having respect for supervisors are key to building a great work ethic. However, if someone asks you to do something that feels unsafe or makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Many young workers are injured — or worse — doing work that their boss asked them to do.

One safety expert suggests that if a job requires safety equipment other than a hard hat, goggles, or gloves, it’s not appropriate for minors.

The CDC has advised NCL that whenever machinery is located in the workplace, youth workers need to exercise extra caution.