Fact Sheet: Teens at Work, Know the Risks

Compiled by the American Society of Safety Engineers

Approximately 80 percent of U.S. teens work annually at some time during their high school years, many during the summer. While they earn extra money and gain valuable work experience, the risk of serious injury or even a fatal injury is present. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2004 alone, more than 38,000 teen workers were injured on the job, and another 134 were fatally injured. Workers aged 15 to 17 spend most of their work hours in food preparation and service jobs, handling stock or in labor jobs, as administrative support jobs, farming, forestry or in fishing jobs. Common injuries sustained among teens include sprains, strains, contusions, lacerations, and fractures.

Teens: Working at a job while you’re still in school can be great! Not only can you earn money, you can develop new skills and explore future careers. Teens have become an important part of the workforce because so many high school students now have part-time jobs.

Although most teens work fewer hours and hold less dangerous jobs than adults, teenagers have a high rate of work-related injuries. Every year in the U.S., nearly 70 teenagers under age 18 die from work-related injuries. Another 77,000 teen workers are hurt badly enough to end up in hospital emergency rooms. Additionally, more than 5,000 workers of all ages die from work-related injuries each year and four million more suffer work-related illnesses and debilitating injuries countrywide.

Why be a statistic? Instead, learn how to be safe at work. Remember, no matter what your job, you have the right to a workplace that’s safe and healthy!

Your Safety I.Q.

How much do you know about workplace safety and health? To find out, take this quiz.The correct answers are shown below.

1. What is the most common job-related injury for first-time workers under 18?

A. burns
B. cuts or lacerations
C. muscle sprain or strain
D. exposure to fumes

2. Which type of hazard can teenagers face at work?

A. trips and falls
B. eye strain
C. excessive noise
D. all of the above

3. By law, your employer must provide all of the following except –

A. protective clothing and equipment necessary for your job
B. transportation home from work after dark
C. payment for medical expenses if you are injured at work
D. training in on-the-job safety

4. On a school day, a 15-year-old is permitted to work up to _____ hours a day.

A. 2
B. 3
C. 4
D. 5

5. Which job is legal for a 16-year-old worker?

A. operating a meat slicing machine at a deli counter
B. driving a forklift at a warehouse
C. waiting tables at a restaurant
D. performing demolition work at a construction site

Quiz Answers: 1C, 2D, 3B, 4B, 5C

Did You Know?

  • Newly hired teens miss work most often because they are suffering from on-the-job muscle sprains, strains, or tears.
  • Fatigue from trying to balance work and school may contribute to injuries among young workers.
  • Nearly 70% of 14- to 16-year-olds injured on the job miss work, school, and other activities for at least a day. A quarter of those injured teens are sidelined for more than a week.
  • About a third of fatal injuries to young workers occur in family businesses, such as a farm.

Be Savvy! Be Safe!

Laws You Should Know — The U.S. Department of Labor has established two major laws to protect the safety and health of teens. The Fair Labor Standards Act restricts the types of jobs teens under 18 can hold and the hours they can work. In addition, the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act r equire that employers provide safe and healthful work environments for all workers, including teens. Employers must also comply with occupational safety and health standards.

States have also created laws to protect working teens . As a result, many rules, like those related to farm work, may vary from state to state. Your employer must obey all appropriate federal and state laws. When federal and state regulations are different, the law that gives you the most protection applies.

Jobs You Can Do — To help you stay safe at your job and to make sure you leave enough time for school, the U.S. Department of Labor has created rules about the jobs you are allowed to do and the hours you can work. Take a look below:

If You Are 13 or Younger When You Turn 14 When You Turn 16
You can:

  • deliver newspapers
  • baby-sit
  • work as an actor
You can work in a(n):

  • office
  • grocery or retail store
  • restaurant
  • movie theater
  • amusement park
You can do any job or occupation that is not deemed to be hazardous as noted on the federal web site:


Source: http://youthrules.dol.gov

Jobs that are Off-Limits to Young Teens — Youth cannot work in mining, logging, meatpacking, roofing, excavation or demolition. You cannot drive a car or forklift. In addition, you cannot work with saws, explosives, radioactive materials, or most machines.

Learn How to Stay Safe — Employers must obey laws that protect all workers, including teens. But workplace safety is also up to you. What can you do to avoid being injured or getting ill? Ask your employer safety-related questions, follow basic safety guidelines at work, and know your rights and responsibilities.

It’s important to ask safety questions before you start a job. Here is a list of important questions to ask:

  1. What are the physical demands of my job?
  2. What are my hours?
  3. Will I be working alone or with others?
  4. What kind of safety gear will I need to wear?
  5. What workplace hazards should I be aware of (noise, chemicals, etc.)?
  6. What safety training will I receive and when will I receive it?
  7. Where are the first-aid supplies and fire extinguishers kept?
  8. Do you have a worker safety policy and an emergency plan?
  9. Is there an occupational safety and health professional on staff?

Help Yourself! — Teen workers face safety and health risks every day by working with badly adjusted or poorly configured office equipment and workstations. The chart below shows a few ways you can protect yourself from injury.

Safety and Health Risk What You Can Do to Avoid It
Repetitive Stress Injury
  • Adjust your workstation to fit your body comfortably.
  • Position your keyboard to avoid wrist injuries.
  • Perform periodic tasks away from the computer.
  • Take breaks from the computer to rest your eyes.
  • Adjust the height and angle of your computer monitor.
Back and Muscle Pain
  • Adjust your chair to the correct height.
  • Make sure your lower back is supported when sitting.
  • Take breaks to stretch your arms, shoulders, and back.
Neck and Shoulder Pain
  • Avoid cradling a telephone handset between your head and shoulder.
  • Rotate your head from side to side, and roll your shoulders backward and forward to relieve tension.
Burns and Cuts
  • Be careful of hot surfaces inside copiers and printers.
  • Wash toner off your hands immediately.
  • Use paper cutters and shredders with care.


Ergonomics at Work — Ergonomics is the science of designing a job to fit the worker. Applying ergonomics to the equipment you use, the tasks you perform, and the environment you work in can help you do your job safely, comfortably, and efficiently.

Why Safety Training Matters! — Being trained in workplace safety can protect you from serious injury, and it’s also good for business. Having an effective safety and health process at your business, which includes safety training, can increase productivity, boost worker morale , and save employers money on health insurance and workers’ compensation.

Want to Know More?

Check out these Web sites for additional information about health and safety for teen workers: