New research showing dozens of American teens die on the job and thousands more are injured each year are prompting calls from child-welfare experts to improve the safety and health conditions of youth work environments.
The new report, released by the Colorado School of Public Health, found that 88 youths under age 20 died from work-related injuries in 2010. The study, published in Public Health Reports, also found another 20,000 missed work due to job-related illness or injury.
"We don't tend to think of child labor as a major issue in the U.S. but we should," said lead researcher Carol Runyan. "Laws governing the employment of youth ages 14 to 17 in this country are often very lenient and in the case of family farms virtually non-existent."
More than 17.6 million workers under age 25 are employed in the U.S. Runyan noted work is a positive experience for most young people, but certain work environments can expose them to unsafe tasks and limited supervision.
Runyan said the study highlights the need for stricter oversight of working conditions for the young including those employed in agriculture.
"Work can help young people develop skills, explore career options, earn money and gain self-esteem," she said. "But without adequate safeguards in place, work can also be dangerous for youth."
The research found farm work is one of the most dangerous for young people. But working teens are also burned in fast food restaurants, cut by sharp tools in grocery stores, robbed at retail businesses, fall from roofs at construction sites and have been involved in traffic collisions.
"From a fatality standpoint, farm work is the most dangerous occupation for kids," she said. "In farm work, youths are working around heavy equipment, digging and cutting with sharp implements. There are deaths almost every year from young people suffocating in grain bins."
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.