Employers reducing the number of injuries to teenage workers

By Brian Zaidman, Research Analyst Research and Statistics

Summer approaches, and so does the teenage worker injury season. Since 1995, 36 percent of all injuries to workers 14 to 18 years of age have occurred during the months of June, July and August. Employers are responsible for providing a workplace that protects workers from injury, disease and fatalities. These responsibilities are even more important when there are teenage workers, who may not fully appreciate the potential dangers of work situations. Minnesota’s employers have made great progress in reducing the number of injuries to teenagers. From 1998 through 2002, there was an annual average of 664 workers’ compensation indemnity claims for teenagers. For the 2003 through 2005 period, there has been an annual average of 336 indemnity claims, a 51 percent decrease. While there has been a slight decrease in the youth employment rate since 2000, it cannot account for this large a decrease in injured workers. Workers’ compensation indemnity claims require a work disability of more than three days, and only about one-fifth of all workers’ compensation claims reach this level of severity. Thus, there are an estimated 1,700 to 2,000 claimed injuries to workers age 14 to 18 years old annually. Workers’ compensation indemnity claims from workers aged 14 to 18, for injuries that occurred between January 2003 and August 2005, were analyzed to provide the most common features of these injured workers and their injuries. • Older teenagers dominated the injury statistics; 57 percent of the injured teenagers were 18-year-olds and 27 percent were 17-yearolds.

Indemnity claims for workers 14 to 18 years old
800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005

• Workplace injuries were more likely among male workers, who accounted for 61 percent of the claims. Females accounted for 52 percent of employed Minnesotans age 16 to 19 in 2004. • As expected among this population, 58 percent of the injured teenagers had part-time or seasonal jobs.
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Safety Lines 10 Spring 2006

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• Only 41 percent of the injured teenagers lived in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, compared to 48 percent among all indemnity claimants. As might be expected, injuries to teenagers were more common in the resort areas, which employ many youths during the summer months. The central lakes region, which includes the areas around Brainerd and Alexandria, accounted for 11 percent of the teenagers with claims, while only 6 percent of all workers’ compensation claimants lived in that area. • Teenager injuries were reported most frequently in the accommodations and food services industry (20 percent of claims) and in retail trade (19 percent of claims). • The two most common occupation types among injured teenagers were food preparation and serving occupations, and transportation and material moving occupations (mostly unskilled general laborers). Each occupation group accounted for 21 percent of the claims. • About 33 percent of teenager claims were for burns, cuts or fractures; 29 percent were for sprains and strains. This compares to 18 percent and 42 percent, respectively, among all workers. • Consistent with the types of injuries, the arms and hands were the most frequent body parts injured, accounting for 36 percent of the claims. • The types of events causing the injuries were most commonly bodily reaction and exertion and contact with objects and equipment. Each category accounted for 35 percent of the claims. Bodily reaction and exertion includes injuries caused by overexertion in lifting, pulling or pushing objects, and injuries due to movements such as bending, crawling or twisting. Some common events in the contact with objects and equipment category include being struck by falling or flying objects and being caught in running equipment. The OSHA Web site includes information for teenage workers and their employers at www.osha.gov/SLTC/teenworkers/ index.html. The Web site includes online tools that describe common hazards and potential safety solutions for teen workers and employers in the restaurant and agriculture industries. The Department of Labor and Industry’s Web site includes child labor standards information that summarizes state and federal laws concerning child labor and contains a list of prohibited work for minors under 18 years of age. The Web site is at www.doli.state. mn.us/childlbr.html.
Safety Lines 11 Spring 2006