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You Can Help Keep Your Kids Safe at Work

Categories: At-risk Populations, Manufacturing, Service Sector, Training, Wholesale and Retail Trade, Young Workers

Are you the parent of a teen or young adult?  Chances are he or she is looking for or has found a summer job.  Work provides teenagers with job skills, independence, and unique experiences that help them transition to adulthood. Despite the benefits of work for young people, a number of hazards exist in the work environment that put them at risk for injury, illness and even death.  Every minute a young worker is injured on the job[i]. Adolescents and young adults (age: 15–24 years) suffer approximately twice the rate of occupational injuries as older workers[i]. The United States has set a goal of reducing the incidence rate of occupational injury by 10% among adolescents aged 15–19 years old by 2020[ii].

While employers have the biggest responsibility to reduce occupational injuries among adolescent workers, others have crucial roles to play as well. The young workers themselves must follow the safe work practices established by their employers. Schools, labor unions, and federal and state agencies also bear responsibilities.  Parents, like you, also play a vital role in protecting young people in the workplace.

However, a recent national survey[iii] found that, despite parent’s active involvement in helping their kids’ find jobs and understand their child’s work tasks and hours, few saw a role for themselves in protecting their children from workplace injuries and illnesses. Fewer than 50% of the parents surveyed helped their children learn about their rights as employees, learn child labor laws, or discussed questions their children should ask about workplace safety.

Many parents may not know how to help their kids stay safe and healthy at work, or may not be sure where to get the information and resources they need to start the conversation. Here’s what you can do to help protect your child in the workplace:

  • Play an active role in your child’s employment:
    • Discuss work tasks
    • Find out what  types of equipment and machinery they will use
    • Know what protective gear (such as gloves, safety glasses, or ear plugs) is available to your child, free of charge, if s/he needs it
    •  Find out what training and supervision is provided by the employer
  • Know the federal and state child labor laws.  They protect teens in the workplace and prohibit  youth from working in certain occupations and from performing especially dangerous tasks in the workplace.  Your state laws may be more protective than the federal ones, so make sure you are familiar with both!
  •  Learn about your adolescents’ rights in the workplace such as the right to report unsafe working conditions and their eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits if injured at work. Your child also has a right to work free of harassment and discrimination based on his/her race, skin color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, disability, or genetic information.
  • Discuss with your children that they also have responsibilities at work. They should talk to someone—a parent, teacher, coworker, or boss—if they are asked to do dangerous work or tasks that make them uncomfortable in any way. They should report hazards to a trusted adult, supervisor, or to a federal or state agency.

Where can you go to find information to protect your teen at work?

NIOSH and other federal and state agencies have resources that may be useful to parents. 

Numerous state agencies have resources that may be useful. As one example, the Teens at Work program in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which receives NIOSH funding, has developed guides specifically for parents: 

Work can be a rewarding experience for young people and an important step in transitioning to adulthood.  NIOSH hopes that the information and resources identified in this blog will help you ensure that your child’s first job experiences are safe and healthful.

Dawn Castillo, MPH; Rebecca Guerin, MA; Andrea Okun, DrPH

Ms. Castillo is the Director of the NIOSH Division of Safety Research

Ms. Guerin is a Health Communications Specialist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division

Dr. Okun is the Deputy Director of the NIOSH Education and Information Division


[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Occupational injuries and deaths among younger workers—United States, 1998–2007. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2010;59:449–55.

[ii] US Department of Health and Human Services. Occupational safety and health—Healthy people [Online]. Available at: http://healthypeople.gov/.

[iii] Runyan C.W., Vladutiu C.J., Schulman M.D., Rauscher K.J. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2011. 49(1):84-86.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. July 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm ET  -   c

    DOL, with NIOSH as a partner, is sponsoring a contest challenging innovators to develop apps to educate young workers about workplace health and safety DOL Worker Safety and Health App Challenge

    Link to this comment

  2. July 24, 2012 at 11:24 am ET  -   Derek Davis

    As a father and safety professional active in regional and national safety committtees (NIOSH NORA TWU) this issue is very close and personal to me. As a nation we do a very poor job overall educating young people about job safety issues, if we did the accident rates would be lower. Public schools should play a role but with declining budgets this may not happen. I volunteer at a local level and speak to groups and students about how to work safely at their first jobs.I strongly feel that young people must be better equipped with safety knowledge because the reality is the employer may not always have the time, resources or incentive to do so. On thing I have said at many meetings and to many in government is as a nation we need to articulate a “National Safety Culture” just like successful companies all over this country do. If we did this kids( And adults) would come into the work force with a better understanding of their rights and more importantly their responsibility to their employer and the Nation to work safely. Our industries, our Nation must remain competitive in a global economy and working safely plays a very important part to that end.

    Link to this comment

    • AUTHOR COMMENT July 30, 2012 at 8:44 am ET  -   Dawn Castillo, Rebecca Guerin, Andrea Okun

      Thank you for your comment. NIOSH has a strong commitment to promoting young worker safety and health, including through the U.S. public school system. We would like to direct you to our free, young worker safety and health curriculum, Youth@Work – Talking Safety, used by school districts across the country to help reduce occupational injuries and illnesses among youth and to teach valuable life skills that will protect teens now, and throughout their lives. The curriculum is customized for each state, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands to address their specific child labor rules and regulations.
      To access the curriculum, please visit the NIOSH website: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/talkingsafety/
      We are currently in the process of updating the curriculum, and making it more accessible and appealing to middle and high school teachers and students. The new curriculum will be completed in the coming months, please check back.
      Thank you for your efforts to educate and protect young workers in the United States.

      Link to this comment

  3. September 13, 2012 at 3:25 am ET  -   anggi

    I volunteer at a local level and speak to groups and students about how to work safely at their first jobs.I strongly feel that young people must be better equipped with safety knowledge because the reality is the employer may not always have the time,

    Link to this comment

  4. September 29, 2012 at 11:09 am ET  -   rosa-tienda de vinilos

    we do a very poor job in general, if we teach young people better in work safety accident rates would be lower.

    Link to this comment

  5. October 19, 2012 at 7:58 am ET  -   Austin Brice

    As a parent it is our responsibility to keep our children safe during their work time. Whatever allocation you did here about this issue seems to me outstanding. Thanks dude.

    Link to this comment

  6. December 24, 2012 at 6:54 am ET  -   Piye Arino

    Hola yo cuando trabajaba estube en una empresa 13 años española y a los adolescentes de minimo 16 años como medida de seguridad no se les dejaba manejar ninguna maquina y siempre tenia que estar al cuidado de el un oficial con esta medida yo creo se podrian solucionar muchos accidentes ya que estas personas menores al no tener experiencia laboral son un alto riesgo de accidente.

    English translation provided by Edgar Reyes

    Hi, when I used to work, I worked at a company for 13 years, and as a safety measure, young workers of a minimum of 16 years of age were not allowed to operate any machinery and they were assigned an official to be watching over them. I think that with such a measure many accidents could be prevented, since these young workers do not have occupational experience and they are a high risk.

    Link to this comment

  7. April 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm ET  -   Joey Cofield

    Very good written information. It will be helpful to everyone who utilizes it, as well as me. Keep up the good work – looking forward to more posts.

    Link to this comment

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