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Lenient regulations mean young workers suffer workplace injuries

Many teens in North Carolina may be working part-time jobs to either make ends meet or to gain work experience. However, new research suggests that laws regulating employment of minors between the ages of 14 and 17 are not as strict as they should be. As a result, younger workers are at a higher risk of getting hurt on the job.

The study's lead author discovered that 88 employees under the age of 20 died from workplace injuries in 2010. Thousands more are injured each year. According to the study, their work environment is poorly regulated, resulting in these injuries. And in the case of family farms, there is practically no regulation at all.

The advantages of working at younger ages are many, including developing discipline and skills and exploring possible career options. However, these lessons may come at a high cost, the study warns.

The report, conducted by health professionals and scholars from both America and Canada, was published in the journal Public Health Reports. The study found that farm work is the most dangerous for children, because they are surrounded by heavy machinery and sharp utensils.

In the U.S., there are more than 17.6 million employees younger than 25 years of age. In 2010, 20,000 young workers missed work because of a work-related injury or illness.

The authors of the study advocate the need for stricter supervision of youth worker safety, especially for agriculture workers. More research needs to be conducted in this field to help prevent injuries among young employees.

Young North Carolina workers should be aware that filing a workers' compensation claim is their right. Workers' compensation allows injured workers to recover expenses such as medical bills and lost wages.

Source: Occupational Health and Safety, "More oversight needed to protect youth workers, study says," April 11, 2012

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