CHAPEL HILL Despite federal regulations intended to protect them, many teenagers in the U.S. use dangerous equipment or work long hours during the school week, according to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.
The national study was based on telephone surveys of 928 teenaged workers, 14 to 18 years old. The results show 52 percent of males and 43 percent of females use dangerous equipment such a box crushers and slicers, or serve and sell alcohol where it is consumed, despite federal child labor laws prohibiting these practices.
The results were published in the March 1, 2007 editor of the journal Pediatrics.
Additionally, 84 percent of females and 61 percent of males handle cash in their jobs, exposing them to risks associated with robberies. Homicides during robberies were the cause of up to one half of all youth fatalities in the retail trade.
"Many teenagers start working at an early age, and most find jobs in retail or service industries. Our aim is to examine the conditions under which they are working, and suggest ways to protect them at work," said lead study author Carol Runyan, Ph.D., director of UNC's Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC) and professor of health behavior and health education in the UNC School of Public Health.
Many teens younger than 16 years old reported working after 7 p.m. on school nights, which is illegal, Runyan said, and suggests the need for better enforcement of child labor laws. Some teens said they worked after 11 p.m. on school nights, potentially interfering with school or sleep.
"Though there are benefits to work, not enough attention has been paid to safety," Runyan said. "Federal and state child labor laws are designed to restrict the working environments, tasks and hours that teens work. However, the data we collected suggest there are gaps in how well businesses are complying."