Protection of Child and Adolescent Workers

  • Date: Jan 01 2001
  • Policy Number: 20019

Key Words: Child Health And Development

The American Public Health Association,

Knowing that employment for youth can provide valuable learning opportunities as well as economic benefits; and

Acknowledging growing concern about child and adolescent workers and work-related injury and illness;1 and

Knowing that an estimated 5.5 million youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years are employed in the United States in agricultural and nonagricultural jobs and that some 250 million children 5-14 years-old working in economic activity in developing countries are often exposed to hazardous and unsafe environments that result in disability or death;2-13,24-29 and

Recognizing that employment and injury data available on children and adolescents in the workplace, even though incomplete, identify that there is a serious problem of work-related injuries and illnesses among young workers;4-19 and

Knowing that most work-related illness, injuries, and fatalities are preventable; and

Recognizing that incomplete injury data on young workers prevent adequate identification of the magnitude and nature of problems among young workers and hinders efforts to develop and implement preventive interventions; and

Knowing that child labor regulations have been established in the U.S. and other countries to protect young workers from the hazards of work, such as injuries and long work hours, as well as other adverse effects on school performance and other age-appropriate activities; and, 

Knowing that many work-related injuries and fatalities occurring in young workers are the result of violations of these regulations,11,12,14,15 that increases in the number of violations of these regulations have been identified,20,21 and that the working conditions that contribute to many workplace injuries among youth are not adequately addressed by current regulations22,23; and

Knowing that the concern regarding child labor is not only a domestic issue but also is international in scope and that children are at greater risk in some developing countries24; and

Knowing that illegal employment of children under unsafe and unhealthy conditions in industries producing products for export is increasing in many countries;25 and

Knowing that the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 1999 adopted the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention No. 182 calling for the prohibition and immediate action against the worst forms of child labor,20 which has been adopted by 80 countries including the United States as of July 2001,30 and 

Knowing that the U.S. Presidnential Executive Order 13126 of June 12, 1999 prohibits the manufacture or importation of goods produced wholly or in part by forced or indentured child labor , but excludes foreign countries who are a party to certain agreements annexed to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),31 and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and

Recognizing the need to establish and effectively enforce uniform occupational health and safety standards at the international level;29 therefore

  1. Recommends that existing U.S. and International Labor Organization child labor regulations be reviewed periodically to update and expand prohibitions and limitations on work activities based on research findings and knowledge about adolescent developmental capabilities, and where appropriate to reduce the number of allowable work hours and adjust the allowed working time-of-day;
  2. Recommends the integration of child labor and ccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations in the U.S. in order to maximize the protection of young workers and the strengthening of enforcement efforts;
  3. Recommends that the US Department of Labor reinstitute, and Congress fund, its Child Labor Advisory Committee and that a public health representative with a background in occupational health and safety be included as a member of this committee;
  4. Recommends that federal and state labor departments and public health agencies work with educators of youth to incorporate comprehensive health and safety training modules in their school curricula; and that states involved in the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 require child labor, workplace rights, and young worker safety and health educational components in the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and Youth Council systems30;
  5. Recommends that additional resources be provided to NIOSH and other institutions to improve data sources, expand research and evaluation activities, and identify intervention strategies leading to prevention;
  6. Encourages the coordination of public health efforts with the US Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education to control and prevent workplace injuries among minors through efforts that improve education and training about the hazards associated with work for children and adolescents for educators, parents, teens, employers, health care providers, occupational health and safety professionals, and others in the field of public health;
  7. Encourages the promotion of youth employment opportunities that provide a safe and healthy work environment, adequate pay, and vocational development;
  8. Urges Congress to pass legislation to ban the import of products made by underage children as defined in the International Labor Organization Convention No. 13819 and
  9. Endorses mandates that make trade benefits and/ or development aid contingent on compliance with internationally recognized worker rights, which include acceptable working conditions and a prohibition against the use of child labor, defined in the International Labor Organization’s Conventions No. 138 and No. 182 and the United Nations’ Rights of the Child.26,31,32


  1. Vossenas-Fernandez P. Reemerging child labor issue prompts health concerns. The Nation’s Health, September 1994.
  2. Child Labor Coalition from The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. Washington, DC: The National Consumer League,, 2001.
  3. Ashagrie, K. Statistics on Working Children and Hazardous Child Labor in Brief, Geneva: International Labour Office, comp/child/stat/stats.htm, (First published 1997, revised April 1998)
  4. Banco L, Lapidus G, Braddock M. Work-related injury among Connecticut minors. Pediatrics. 1992;89(5): 957-960.
  5. Heyer N, et al. Occupational injuries among minors doing farm work in Washington. Am J Public Health. 1992;82(4):557-560.
  6. Belville R, Pollack S, Godbold J, Landrigan P. Occupational injuries among working adolescents in New York state. JAMA. 1993;269(21):2754-2759.
  7. Parker D, Carl W, French L, Martin F. Characteristics of adolescent work injuries reported to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Am J Public Health. 1994;84(4):606-611.
  8. Pollack S, Landrigan P. Child labor in 1990: prevalence and health hazards. Ann Rev Public Health. 1990;11:359-375.
  9. Richter E, Jacobs J. Work injuries and exposures in children and young adults: review and recommendations for action. Am J Ind Med. 1994;19:747-769.
  10. Schober S, et al. Work-related injuries in minors. Am J Ind Med. 1988;14:585-595.
  11. Suruda A, Halperin W. Work-related deaths in children. Am J Ind Med. 1991;19: 739-745.
  12. Dunn K, Runyan C. Deaths at work among children and adolescents. Am J Dis Child. 1993;147:1044-1047.
  13. Castillo D, Landen D, Layne L. Occupational injury deaths of 16- and 17-year olds in the United States. Am J Public Health. 1994;84(4):646-649.
  14. Employment Standards, Apprenticeship and Crime Victims Compensation Division. Protecting Children in the Workplace. Olympia, Washington: Department of Labor and Industries; 1990.
  15. Child Labor: Increases in Detected Child Labor Violations throughout the United States. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office, GAO publication HRD-90-116, 1990.
  16. By the Sweat and Toll of Children: The Use of Child Labor in American Imports. A Report to the Committee on Appropriations. Washington, DC: US Dept of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs; 1994.
  17. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8312: International Occupational Health and Safety Standards. APHA Policy Statements, 1948-present, cumulative. Washington, DC: APHA; current volume.
  18. Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Washington, DC: U.S. Congress, P.L. 105-220,1998
  19. Minimum Age Convention, Concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment. Geneva: International Labor Organization, C138, 1973.
  20. Worst Forms of Child Labor 1999 Convention, Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor. Geneva: International Labor Organization, C182, 1999
  21. Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Geneva: United Nations, G.A. resolution 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR supp. (No.49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49, 1989
  22. Dunn, KA, Runyan, CW, Cohen, L, Schulman, M. Teens at work: A statewide study of jobs, hazards, and injuries. Journal of Adolescent Health. 1998;22:19-25.
  23. Knight, EB, Castillo, DN, Layne, LA. A detailed analysis of work-related injury among youth treated in hospital emergency departments: A national representative sample. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 1995;27:793-805
  24. Miller, ME, Kaufman, JD. Occupational injuries among adolescents in Washington State, 1988-1991. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 1998; 34:121-132.
  25. Brooks, DR, Davis, LK. Work-related injuries to Massachusetts teens, 1987-1990. American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 1996; 24:313-324.
  26. Castillo, DN, Mallit, BD. Occupational injury deaths of 16- and 17-year-olds in the United States: trends and comparisons to older workers. Injury Prevention. 1997; 3:277-281.
  27. Castillo, DN, Davis, L, Wegman, DH. Young Workers. Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews. 1999; Vol. 14, No. 3, pg 519-536
  28. Calvert, GM. Acute occupational pesticide-related illness and injury among U.S. children, 1988-1999. Presentation at the North American Congress of Clinical Toxicology, Montreal Quebec, Canada, 2001 (submitted for publication).
  29. National Research Council: Protecting Youth at Work: Health and Safety and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States. Committee on the Health and Safety Implications of Child Labor; Board on Children, Youth, and Families; Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council; and the Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 1998.
  30. Reported by the Child Labor Coalition,, October, 2001.
  31. Executive Order 13126 of June 12, 1999. Federal Register, Vol. 64, No. 115.

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