The High Cost of Summer Cash; Teenagers Are Twice as Likely as Adults to Get Hurt on the Job

By Scelfo, Julie; Springen, Karen | Newsweek, May 31, 2004 | Go to article overview

The High Cost of Summer Cash; Teenagers Are Twice as Likely as Adults to Get Hurt on the Job


Scelfo, Julie, Springen, Karen, Newsweek


Byline: Julie Scelfo and Karen Springen

Soon the final school bell will ring, and 4 million teenagers will start their summer jobs. Aaron Janssen is one of them. Janssen, 16, is psyched to have landed a stint as a cook near his home in Iowa; working makes him feel like his dad and will help him buy a car. The job's hazards don't concern him. "Everyone knows to be careful," he says. But a working teenager can be a perfect storm of eagerness and inexperience, and here's a case in point: last week a 15-year-old boy died in a job-related accident while working for a Maryland landscaping firm.

While putting high-school students to work has obvious benefits, it also holds considerable risks. Each year, more than 70,000 working teenagers end up in the emergency room because of work-related injuries, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Even more worrisome are fatalities: about 70 teens die on the job each year, mostly in farm and retail work. Government agencies hope to cast new light on these statistics; last week the U.S. Labor Department sent tougher child-labor regulations to the Office of Management and Budget for approval.

Is it immaturity? Lack of training? A sense of invincibility? The exact cause is often unclear, but last week's fatality raises all these questions. Michael Barrios was killed after he climbed atop a mulch-spreading truck and fell in. (The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health department is investigating the death; the landscaping company did not return calls seeking comment. …

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