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Most Dangerous Jobs for American Teenagers

Updated on April 14, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish is an award-winning Employment & Training pro with regional records and tens of thousands placed into gainful employment.

Lifeguarding is a typical teen summer job and not as dangerous as several others they might try to work,
Lifeguarding is a typical teen summer job and not as dangerous as several others they might try to work, | Source

Declines in Teen Work Safety - Revisiting The Jungle

Labor Unions and Child Labor Laws under President Franklin D. Roosevelt both came about in part to help protect children - and women and pregnant women - from the vicious meat packing industry of the day.

Meat packing was not the only injury and death laden industry sector of that era, however, and unnecessary dangers occurred into the 1970s, evidenced by the film Norma Rae. Other films have high lighted related problems in nuclear power plants. Surprisingly, meat packing in the 21st Century is becoming the source of youth injuries and death once again, as discussed below.

In the late 2000s, many youth too young to legally work in meat packing houses were discovered working in them, anyway. Many of these young people have been injured on the job in the animal butchering and meat manufacturing processes.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Agricultural work is the most dangerous industrial sector for teenagers in America.
Agricultural work is the most dangerous industrial sector for teenagers in America.
Agricultural work is the most dangerous industrial sector for teenagers in America. | Source
Source

How Many Teens Are Injured At Work?

Almost 160,000 teenagers are injured or made ill on the job every year.

1st Edition Cover.
1st Edition Cover.

Meat Packing was the Devil, 1906

It comes as a lion seeking whom he can devour.

Reminiscent of satan in the Bible, the meat packing industry was looked upon by Sinclair Lewis as a monster after his experiences working in it.

Highest Incidences of Injury and Death

US Labor statistics show that every 10 days, one teenager dies on the job. That's 36-37 kids per year in America that die working.

Keeping an eye toward teen safety on the job, the National Consumers League published a list of the five deadliest summer jobs a teenager can work, as far as safety is concerned.

A team from the League looked at all the related data from the federal group known as NIOSH or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. These important and startling data reveal than almost 160,000 teens are injured or made ill every year because of something in the work environment.

A greater number of teenagers work during the summer than for the entire year annually and the age range is wider in the summer: ages 13 – 19. Teens aged 13-15 usually do not work during the school year, although some do and usually for family operated businesses and famrs. One exception is grocery baggers ages 14-15, a few fast-food jobs for 15 year-olds, and some possible caddie positions in warmer climates year-round. Younger teens that are self-employed are few, but exist as well.

First, it must be realized that youth under the age of 18 are not permitted by law in most US States to operate power machinery of any kind at work, from a forklift to a meat slicer.

  1. Agriculture/Farms, Animal Production - Picking or Harvesting Crops - For adults, Commercial Fishing related to this category is the most dangerous jobs in America because it results in the highest number of deaths per 100,000 workers. It was surpassed by Logging in 2014. (See Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs). Further, the National Safety Council's 2008 publication of Injury Facts lists Agriculture as the Number 1 Most Dangerous Industry overall among adults, at almost 29 deaths for every 100,000 adult agricultural workers across many hundreds of thousands of workers.
  2. Construction – Construction Trades, and especially Roofing - The US Dept. of Labor tells us that a US construction worker is 3 times as likely to die as a result of a work-related injury as American workers overall.
  3. Driving - Forklifts, Tractors, and ATV’s
  4. Traveling Youth Sales Crews
  5. Outdoors Occupations - Landscaping; Groundskeepers, Lawn Service Techs
  6. Illegal Meat Packing Work – For the under-18 set, this should not be happening at all. The government has discovered 15-year-olds using power equipment and sharp knives in meatpacking houses. One Midwestern meat processing plant accumulated over 9,000 Child Labor Law violations in this regard in a short time. Teens must be at least 18 years old to work legally in any meat packing plants in the United States.

What Are Youth Allowed To Do For Work?

For labor regulations applying to teenagers What A Teenager is Allowed to Do for Work helps us sort them. Note that these rules are different at ages 13, 14, 16, and 18.

Many teens work in construction during summers - painting, driveway sealing, some roofing, and some actual building.
Many teens work in construction during summers - painting, driveway sealing, some roofing, and some actual building. | Source

Every 10 days, one teenager dies on the job in the USA.

— US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

"You'll Never Walk Again" - Forklift Injuries

Traveling Sales Crews

I had a bad experience with traveling teen sales crews at the beginning of last Summer.

A young man approached the front door as I was entering the dwelling and began a high-pressure sales pitch about wireless services, at the same time claiming not to be selling anything. This was illogical and assuredly some type of sales or bunko snare.

His pitch was nonsense. He kept looking at a car holding his “supervisor” at the curb.

The young man questioned me about possessions and services I had. I refused to answer and asked him three times what he wanted or needed - to come to the point. He carreid some sort of tracking paper with him, but I noticed that there was no data on it - just lines drawn through categories. Bad sales results or fake.

The youth made a rude comment and tried to get into the dwelling. I told him I was not interested as I slammed the door shut. He and his supervisor disappeared, apparently not going to any other units on the street.

This may have been a front for a ring of burglars.

Not only do some of these rings operate solely to rob people, but sometimes they kidnap youth and force them to help in the robberies. These traveling sales crews can be dangerous to the public as well as to teens. Even if legitimate, the youth that travel on these sales junkets around the country often make little money, are overcharged for room and board, and can be lost or injured along the way. Some have been murdered and/or involved in prostitution rings. Traveling Sales Crews are not safe for youth and the "traveling" part is the tip-off.

Beware Youth Sales Trips

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Traveling sales can take many forms.Sleeping arrangements are often not this comfortable on youth sales junkets that become dangerous.
Traveling sales can take many forms.
Traveling sales can take many forms. | Source
Sleeping arrangements are often not this comfortable on youth sales junkets that become dangerous.
Sleeping arrangements are often not this comfortable on youth sales junkets that become dangerous. | Source

Baking Machinery

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for all the great new comments! Some real dangers exist in the working world and I hope that schools are alerting teens to these types of hazards.

    • Rhonda Waits profile image

      Rhonda Musch 

      7 years ago from The Emerald Coast

      Good advice. My son recently turned 18 and moved out. It was a very hard time for me. I wrote a hub about it. It is called hes all grown up now. This was the only way I could let him go. I still worry about him and I always will. Thank you. This hub relates to my fears and worry's. You are a great writer.

    • Thomas@theone profile image

      Thomas@theone 

      7 years ago

      This is a very interesting and sad hub, i must say that i had absolutely know idea about any of this, so i learnt a lot in reading this article

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Confidential to "Argos" of Geulph, Ontario; 70.49.12.50 - the vids of mangled teenagers is your answer. Are 17-yr-olds legally eligible to work in Ontario meat packing plants? Are you an adult with association or interest in one in Geulph, such as Better Beef, or a reporter/freelancer? If actually the teen you represent, the article is quite clear, if you read it.

      An underaged youth's lack of experience and reckless attitude to "try anything" is not a legitimate reason to employ him ilegally in a job that stands odds-on to harm him permanently.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Ashley - Farm families might starve to death.  My state still has 6 years' worth of corn crops in solos, unused and people are hungry.

      dohn121 - Yes. Do you know about coffee and milk being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in the 1950s to increase their price in the marketpace? How often does this manipulation of prices occur today, besides in oil speculation?

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 

      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Someone once told me that desperation is the greatest motivator and I believe it to be true especially in this day and age where work is tougher and tougher to find. Truth be told, before FDR placed federal child labor laws, children were required to work by their families because parents could not afford to eat with what little they were earning. In this DEPRESSION, I believe that the same thing is happening. All it takes is for something life the price of beef or milk to spike and you're going to see some angry desperate people. We are descendants of revolutionaries afterall.

    • Ashley Joy profile image

      Ashley Joy 

      9 years ago

      In the area I live lots of families have farms and many kids do get hurt helping to bring in the hay each year. But right now with the bad economy most of them cannot find other work that was there in the past.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thaks to Everyone for reading - please spread the word about these tragedies, the needless injuries an deaths.

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Very interesting. Some very scary jobs. Some you wouldn't even think about, like the traveling sales crew.

    • profile image

      Spam Site 

      9 years ago

      <a href="http://www.travelingsalescrews.info/magazine%20sca... sites</a> like travelingsalescrews.info, spread lies about traveling sales crews. I can almost guarantee there behind this spam article.  From what I heard, there acting as a non-profit and taking money from people and playing on their fears.  I believe he is a <a href="http://www.travelingsalescrews.info/magazine%20sca...

    • Army Infantry Mom profile image

      Army Infantry Mom 

      9 years ago

      Wow,..I had no idea so many teens have died in meat packing places, My hubby is in construction and I've seen how dangerous that occupation can be first hand. I believe this hub will open parents eye's and will bring forth a conversation that needs to be discussed. Great hub Patty !!!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      9 years ago from London UK

      Fascinating and worrying statistics Patty, and good advise for worried parents who may now steer their kids towards another profession! If not, at least you have highlighted what can go wrong and possible dangers, and hopefully kids will be better prepared for such dangerous and i do hope just as rewarding jobs!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Satci-Barbo7 -- I also want to know about the parents. 17-year-olds seem to be the most frequent victims, along with 18-19 year olds that are legally adults. The jobs sounds like easy money and a fun time, so they go. For 16-17 years old, you;d think the parents might not want to sign, but the "supervisors" talk a good game and have a good appearance. So dangerous.

    • Staci-Barbo7 profile image

      Staci-Barbo7 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      The information you presented on the traveling sales crews is almost beyond imagination, Patty. This involves kidnapping of these children. Where are their parents? Or do the criminals find discontented kids who want to run away from home and have parents who just don't care whether or not they're gone?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      That's very moving, Everyday Miracles. These two videos in particular are heart wrenching. The first young man is so angry and he mioght be suicidal at times, but I hope he has found peace and good work, and more friends.

    • Everyday Miracles profile image

      Becki Rizzuti 

      9 years ago from Indiana, USA

      I cried for them, Patty :(

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      It is indeed. I'd no idea about the meat packing jobs until I ran across a news article about it.

    • RVDaniels profile image

      RVDaniels 

      9 years ago from Athens, GA

      Interesting.

    working

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