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CDC study looks at on-the-job injuries among young workers

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Photo: YinYang/iStockphoto

Washington — A comprehensive public health strategy is needed to protect younger workers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers say after their recent study showing that the rate of nonfatal on-the-job injuries among 15- to 24-year-olds is between 1.2 and 2.3 times higher than that of the 25-44 age group.

Analyzing data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, researchers found that hospital ERs treated an estimated 3.2 million nonfatal occupational injuries to workers ages 15-24 between 2012 and 2018. Of those, 18- and 19-year-olds experienced the highest injury rate, at 404 per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers. The injury rate for workers ages 20-24 and 15-17 was 287 and 281 per 10,000 FTEs, respectively, compared with 195 per 10,000 for workers 25-44.

Although contact with objects and equipment was the leading cause of work-related injury requiring ER treatment for all age groups studied, lacerations and punctures were the most common type of injury among younger workers. According to NIOSH, adolescents and young adults comprise about 13% of the workforce and traditionally have sustained higher rates of occupational injuries. Around half of injured workers ages 15-17 were employed in the accommodations and food services subsector of the leisure and hospitality industry.


“Evidence suggests that contributors to increased injury risk among younger workers include the following: workplace hazards associated with young worker jobs; violations of child labor laws; fast pace of work; minority status; and lack of skills, experience, supervision and high-quality safety training,” the report states. “Young workers might be less likely to recognize workplace hazards, voice safety concerns and be aware of their legal protections.”

The researchers say parents and health care providers should be encouraged to talk about workplace safety with teens and young adults.

The study was published online Sept. 4 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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