Purpose: Occupational injury is an ongoing and serious threat to American youth. However, little is known about the environments in which youth work or the hazards to which they are exposed. The purpose of this study was to document the patterns of work, exposures to hazardous equipment and situations, and work-related injury experiences of adolescents.
Methods: We identified a statewide targeted sample of North Carolina households with teens age 14-17 years and interviewed those who had ever worked for pay or worked on a farm.
Results: Five hundred sixty-two teens from 700 eligible households reported that they had worked non-farm jobs for pay. One-third were paid for work before age 14 years; two-thirds had held more than one paid job. Place of employment was most often someone's home, a retail store, or a restaurant. Common jobs were lawn care worker, cashier, and dishwasher. Common hazards to which teens were exposed included ladders or scaffolding; forklifts, tractors or riding mowers; and working around loud noises. Over half were injured at least once while working a paid job, most often from being cut or burned.
Conclusions: Work among youth is common. Teens hold a variety of jobs, mostly in the retail trade and the service sector, exposing them to hazardous equipment and situations. Injuries at work are frequent and some are serious. This study supports the need to include an occupational history and work-related safety counseling in clinical encounters with adolescents.