SATURDAY, April 21, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- About 20,000 teens were hurt -- and 88 died -- from work-related injuries at private employers in 2010, a new study shows.
In many cases, the deaths and injuries were the result of poorly regulated work environments, according to researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health, in Aurora.
"We don't tend to think of child labor as a major issue in the U.S., but we should," study author Carol Runyan said in a University of Colorado news release. "Laws governing the employment of youth ages 14 to 17 in this country are often very lenient and, in the case of family farms, virtually non-existent."
Of all the jobs teens do, farming is particularly hazardous.
"From a fatality standpoint, farm work is the most dangerous occupation for kids," said Runyan, who also is a professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health. "In farm work, youths are working around heavy equipment, digging and cutting with sharp implements. There are deaths almost every year from young people suffocating in grain bins."
About 18 million U.S. workers are under age 25. Although work offers many benefits for young people, it also can be hazardous if teens don't receive proper training and supervision by adults.
"Work can help young people develop skills, explore career options, earn money and gain self-esteem," Runyan said. "But without adequate safeguards in place, work can also be dangerous for youth."
A recent U.S. study found that 26 percent of workers younger than 18 worked at least part of the day without an adult supervisor and as many as one-third reported not having any health and safety training, Runyan said.
She noted that young people working on family farms have virtually no legal protections and often drive while underage and operate tractors and other heavy equipment.
The report was published in the journal Public Health Reports.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about young worker safety and health.