Younger People Have More Workplace Injuries

Workers Aged 15 to 24 Are Also More Likely to Visit ERs Because of Injuries on the Job

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

April 22, 2010 -- Younger people in America's workforce are twice as likely as older workers to suffer an injury on the job that requires treatment in an emergency room, a new CDC report suggests.

The finding comes from a study on injuries and deaths among workers published in the April 23 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers examined workplace data from 1998 through 2007. During that time, 5,719 people between 15 and 24 died from occupational injuries, or on average 572 annually.

The fatality rate for that group was 3.6 per 100,000 full-time workers, compared to 4.4 for people 25 and older.

In the same period, an estimated 7.9 million nonfatal job-related injuries to younger workers required emergency department treatment, according to the report. The rate of such injures to people 15 to 24 was about two times higher than among workers 25 and older.

The report also finds that:

  • The fatality rate for younger workers decreased about 14% while the rate of nonfatal work injuries declined about 19% during the 10-year span.
  • Younger Hispanic workers had a fatality rate (5.6 per 100,000) that was significantly higher than for non-Hispanic white workers (3.3 per 100,000), and also for non-Hispanic black workers (2.3 per 100,000).
  • The rate of nonfatal emergency room visits was about the same for all younger ethnic groups.
  • The highest nonfatal injury rates were experienced by workers 18 and 19.
  • Younger male workers had higher rates of both fatal and nonfatal injuries than younger female workers.

"The males may be assigned to the riskier tasks, doing more construction work," study researcher Dawn Castillo, MPH, of CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, tells WebMD.

The injury rate among younger workers may be higher due to inexperience, inadequate supervision, and absence of training, she says.

Fellow researcher Chris Estes, MPH, tells WebMD that employers need to do more to make workplaces safer.

The most frequent causes of job-related deaths among all age groups were linked to transportation, the researchers say.

For younger workers, fatalities also occurred in service industry jobs, construction, wholesale and retail trade, and agriculture. Data on nonfatal injuries by occupation were not available.

Castillo says younger workers "might be less likely to recognize hazards, less likely to speak up regarding safety and less aware of their legal rights as workers. This might be exacerbated for some groups of workers, such as Hispanics and workers in their first jobs."

The researchers say they recorded 294,000 assaults and violent acts against younger workers during the 10-year time period.

They write that "reductions in younger worker injuries and deaths will require employers to make changes in work environments and workplace practices" and that employers need to be more aggressive about training and making job sites safer.

"We're very pleased to see there have been modest declines, but more work can be done to make sure younger workers are safer at work," Estes says.



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SOURCES: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; April 23, 2010; vol 59: pp 449-455.

Dawn Castillo, MPH, Division of Safety Research, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC.

Chris Estes, MPH, Division of Safety Research, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC.

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