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Teens Working Summer Jobs Need to Think About Safety

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Cleaning compounds, paints, solvents, glues, caustics, hydrocarbons, and bleaches were the substances most frequently causing the injuries. The most dangerous places -- as in the recent CDC report -- were in food service facilities such as fast food restaurants. Automotive services and general retail stores were also common sites for injuries. Jobs in the construction industry and hotels were least likely for toxic injuries.

Many people are not aware of child labor laws, which could help curb some of these injuries, says Dawn Castillo, MPH, senior research epidemiologist at NIOSH. "A lot of people are not aware of the specifics of them, including employers, parents, kids themselves, school personnel involved in signing work permits," she tells WebMD.

An example: "It is permissible for 14 and 15 year olds to work in retail and office settings, but children are prohibited from working in warehouses, construction, transportation," says Castillo. "[The law] also limits the number of hours and days they can work."

On average, about 70 deaths of kids under 18 occur every year in the workplace, primarily in retail settings. "The majority are robbery related, in settings like convenience stores or fast-food outlets at closing hours," Castillo tells WebMD.

Teens in auto-related fatal accidents typically involve pizza and other types of delivery services, she adds. "Based on child labor laws, 16-year-olds should not do any driving; 17-year-olds should not have driving as a regular part of their job and should not be driving to meet specific deadlines," says Castillo.

Some advice to parents:

  • Take an active role in the employment decisions of your children, Castillo says. "Often when they reach adolescence, parents tend to allow kids more independence. But parents need to talk with kids about the type of work they are getting, what it involves, and what training and supervision is provided."

One small NIOSH study -- a telephone survey of kids treated in emergency departments -- found that "a fair proportion of kids reported not receiving any safety training whatsoever," Castillo tells WebMD. "Also, they were not supervised at the time they were injured.

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