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Young Workers' Occupational Safety

Authors:

Abstract

The authors' goals in writing this chapter include: (1) to summarize what is known about the prevalence of workplace injuries among young workers, as well as the risk factors associated with these injuries; (2) to summarize several areas of research on general risk taking among adolescents and on safety behaviors among employed adults in an effort to highlight unexplored ways to expand research on workplace injuries among young workers; and (3) to highlight implications for safety management and training to improve workplace safety for young workers based on work injury research collected to date and on general research looking at adolescent risk taking. In summary, the risk factors reviewed in this chapter indicate that both personal factors and workplace factors play roles in youth work injuries, although ultimately the development of a safe workplace is achieved through employee education, job design, and a positive safety climate. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
6
YOUNG WORKERS'
OCCUPATIONAL
SAFETY
CATHERINE LOUGHLIN
AND
MICHAEL
R.
FRONE
It
is
important.
. .
that work experiences
be
structured
in
ways
to
pro-
tect
the
health
of
youth
and
optimize
their
chance
to
become healthy
and
successful
adults. (Wegman
&
Davis, 1999,
p.
580)
Young
people
are
participating
in the
paid labor
force
at
unprece-
dented rates (Loughlin
&
Barling, 2001).
This
increased participation
can
be
explained
in
part
by
expanding opportunities
in the
service sector
of the
economy
and the
rise
in
nonstandard employment (both
of
which tend
to
favor
young workers). However, given
that
hallmarks
of
adolescence
include identity development
and the
striving
for
autonomy
and
achieve-
ment (Adams, Montemayor,
&
Gullota, 1996; Feldman
&
Elliott, 1990;
Vondracek, 1994),
it is not
surprising
that
many young people seek entry
into
the
paid labor
force
at
this time. Occupational researchers
are now
rec-
ognizing
this
and
interest
is
growing
in the
work characteristics
and
devel-
opmental outcomes
of
young people's paid employment (see Frone, 1999;
Institute
of
Medicine, 1998; Loughlin
&
Barling, 1998,
1999).
One
devel-
opmentally
significant
health outcome
from
paid employment
is
work-
related
injury.
Despite
the
importance
of
workplace
safety
among young workers,
our
understanding
of it is
underdeveloped (Frone, 1998; Institute
of
Medicine,
1998).
This
lack
of
knowledge
is
puzzling
because when nonfatal
injury
107
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10662-006
The Psychology of Workplace Safety, edited by J. Barling and M. R. Frone
Copyright © 2004 American Psychological Association. All rights reserved.
Copyright American Psychological Association. Not for further distribution.
rates
at
work
are
examined across
the
life
span, young workers (ages
15—24)
typically
represent
the age
group with
the
highest rate
of
risk (see
the
fol-
lowing
section
for
more detail). Moreover,
as
Layne, Castillo, Stout,
and
Cutlip (1994) have pointed out, "adolescent occupational
injuries
can be
prevented only
once
hazards have been
identified
and
age-specific interven-
tion
strategies have been developed
and
incorporated
into
. . .
safety
and
training programs"
(p.
660).
We
therefore
have
three
goals
in
writing
this
chapter.
First,
we
briefly
summarize
what
is
known about
the
prevalence
of
workplace
injuries
among young workers,
as
well
as the
risk factors associ-
ated with these
injuries.
Second,
we
summarize
several areas
of
research
on
general
risk
taking among adolescents
and on
safety
behaviors among
employed
adults
in an
effort
to
highlight unexplored
ways
to
expand
research
on
workplace
injuries
among young workers. Third,
we
highlight
implications
for
safety
management
and
training
to
improve workplace
safety
for
young workers based
on
work
injury
research conducted
to
date
and on
general research looking
at
adolescent risk taking.
WORKPLACE
INJURIES
AMONG
YOUNG
WORKERS
Prevalence
of
Workplace
Injuries
Occupational
health
researchers
in the
United
States,
Canada,
and
Europe
have highlighted
a
consistent trend showing that
the
prevalence
of
nonfatal occupational
injuries
decreases with increasing
age
(e.g., Castillo,
1999; Centers
for
Disease
Control
and
Prevention
[CDC],
2001; Dupre,
2000; Human Resources Development
Canada
[HRDC], 2000; Kraus, 1985;
National Institute
for
Occupational
Safety
and
Health [NIOSH], 1995,
1997).
In
other
words, adolescent workers
are at a
higher risk
of
experienc-
ing
an
injury
at
work
than
adult workers are.
As for
absolute levels
of
workplace
injuries,
approximately 60,000 young workers
are
involved
in
lost-time
injuries
on the job
each
year
in
Canada (HRDC, 2000).
In the
United States,
it was
estimated
that
64,100 workers ages
14 to 17
were seen
in
hospital emergency departments
for
work-related
injuries
in
1992 (Layne
et
al.,
1994).
However, because only about
one
third
of
work
injuries
are
treated
in
hospital emergency departments,
the
National Institute
for
Occu-
pational
Safety
and
Health
(NIOSH) estimates
that
about 200,000 adoles-
cents
are
injured
on the job
each
year (Institute
of
Medicine, 1998). Miller
and
Waehrer (1998) estimated that
in
1993 there
were
371,000 teenagers
Although
workers
at the
other
end of the age
distribution
are
also
vulnerable
to
injury
at
work,
older
workers
tend
to
compensate
for
their
reduced
physical
capacity
by
being
more
safety
conscious
on the
job
(Ringenbach
&
Jacobs,
1995). This,
in
conjunction
with
their
greater
on-the-job
experience
(Tsang,
1992),
tends
to
lead
to
safety
outcomes
better
than those
for
young
workers.
J
08
LOL/GHLIN
AND
FRONE
Copyright American Psychological Association. Not for further distribution.
injured
in the
United States, with incurred costs
of $5
billion.
In
Britain,
depending
on the
occupations considered,
it is
estimated that
from
20% to 35%
of
employed adolescents
are
injured
at
work (Hobbs
&
McKechnie, 1997).
The
rate
and
cost
of
adolescent
injuries
is
particularly
surprising
when
one
considers
that
most adolescents
are
concentrated
in
occupa-
tions
not
traditionally considered dangerous.
For
example, more
than
50%
of
youth work
injuries
occur
in
restaurants
and
grocery stores (Institute
of
Medicine, 1998;
NIOSH,
1997). Typical
injuries
include lacerations,
strains
and
sprains, contusions, burns,
and
fractures
(Institute
of
Medi-
cine,
1998;
NIOSH,
1997).
Despite
the
research conducted
to
date, several
issues
make
it
difficult
to
estimate
the
absolute prevalence
of
injuries
to
employed youth
and the
specific
types
of
injuries
experienced
by
them. First, definitions
of
what
constitutes
a
work
injury
(e.g.,
any
injury,
any
lost-time
injury,
injuries
resulting
in
three
or
more lost workdays)
can
vary
widely
across studies.
Second,
definitions
of
what constitutes
employment
differ
across studies,
especially
as
they relate
to
informal
employment (e.g., baby-sitting, lawn
cutting).
Third,
many studies
use
samples
that
fail
to
adequately
cover
the
population
of
employed youth
and
fail
to
cover
all
potential
injuries
expe-
rienced
by
adolescents. Fourth,
official
records
may
underestimate
the
number
of
adolescent work
injuries
because many
injuries
either
go
unre-
ported
or are
undocumented (Conway
&
Svenson, 1998; Parker, Carl,
French,
&
Martin, 1994; Veazie, Landen, Bender,
&
Amandus, 1994).
For
example,
Parker
et al.
(1994) estimated that during
a
12-month period,
two
thirds
of
adolescent work
injuries
were
not
reported
to the
Minnesota
Department
of
Labor
and
Industry.
Finally,
self-reports
of
workplace
inju-
ries
may
suffer
from
underreporting
due to
recall
errors
(Landen
&
Hen-
dricks,
1995). Collectively, these limitations
are
likely
creating published
prevalence estimates that
are
underestimates. Nonetheless, even with
a
fair
amount
of
potential underestimation,
the
research reviewed earlier sug-
gests
that
workplace
injuries
among adolescent workers
are a
serious prob-
lem
that
crosses national boundaries. Occupational health researchers
therefore
need
to
understand more
fully
the
factors that increase young
workers' risk
of
being
injured
at
work.
Risk
Factors
for
Workplace
Injuries
After
examining
the
literature
on
work
injuries
among adolescents
and
adults, Frone (1998)
identified
five
general categories
of
risk
factors that
have received some
attention:
demographics, personality, employment
characteristics, emotional
and
physical health,
and
substance use.
In the
following
subsections
we
discuss research exploring
the
link between each
category
of
risk
factors
to
work
injuries
among young workers.
YOUNG
WORKERS'
OCCUPATIONAL
SAFETY
109
Copyright American Psychological Association. Not for further distribution.
Demographics
Researchers have consistently documented
that
adolescent males
are
more likely
to be
injured
at
work
than
adolescent females (e.g., Belville,
Pollack, Godbold,
&
Landrigan, 1993; Brooks, Davis,
&
Gallagher, 1993;
Frone, 1998; Layne
et al,
1994;
NIOSH,
1997; Schober, Handke, Halperin,
Moll,
&
Thun,
1988).
However, little research
has
attempted
to
explain
this gender
difference.
One
possible explanation
is
that adolescent males
are
more
likely
to
engage
in
risky
behaviors
than
adolescent females
(Brynes,
Miller,
&
Schafer,
1999).
However, Dunn, Runyon,
Cohen,
and
Schulman (1998) speculated that
the
higher rates
of
work
injuries
among
adolescent males
is due to
their
job
experiences, exposure
to
work-related
hazards,
and
employers' expectations
for
male workers rather
than
to
their
risk-taking
behavior. Only
one
study
has
attempted
to
explain gender
differ-
ences
in
work injuries among adolescents. Frone (1998) explored
20
possi-
ble
mediating variables, ranging
from
personality characteristics, work
characteristics,
and
physical
and
emotional health
to
substance use.
He
found
that
a
significant gender
difference
in
work
injuries
became nonsig-
nificant
after
controlling
for
exposure
to
hazardous work environments
and
on-the-job substance
use and
impairment.
In
other words, adolescent males
may
be
more
likely
to be
injured
at
work compared
to
adolescent
females
because
they
are
more
likely
to
work
in a
hazardous work environment
and
are
more
likely
to
engage
in
on-the-job substance use. Thus,
both
the
work
experiences
and
risky
behavior
of
adolescent males
may
increase their
like-
lihood
of
experiencing
a
work
injury
compared
to
adolescent females.
As
noted
earlier, when looking across
a
wide span
of age
groups (e.g.,
ranging
from
14 to 65
years old)
for
employed persons,
age is
negatively
related
to
work
injuries
(e.g., Castillo, 1999; CDC, 2001; Dupre, 2000;
HRDC, 2000;
Kraus,
1985;
NIOSH,
1995, 1997). However, when studies
are
restricted
to the
narrower
age
range defining adolescence,
findings
show
that
age is
positively related
to
work
injuries
(e.g., Banco, Lapidus,
&
Brad-
dock, 1992;
Belville
et
al., 1993; Brooks
et
al., 1993;
NIOSH,
1997).
Although
no
research
has
explicitly tried
to
explain this positive relation,
it
is
consistent with labor laws
that
generally allow adolescents access
to
increasingly
risky
jobs with increasing age.
Higher socioeconomic status,
as
indicated
by
income, education,
or
occupational
status,
is
known
to be
associated with
better
health
outcomes
(e.g.,
Adler
et
al., 1994)
and
fewer
occupational
injuries
among adults (e.g.,
Cubbin, LeClere,
&
Smith, 2000).
In
contrast,
other
researchers have
failed
to
find
a
relation between socioeconomic status
and
injury
incidence among
young
workers (Anderson
et
al., 1994; Williams, Currie, Wright, Elton,
&
Beattie,
1996).
For
certain types
of
injuries,
physical stature
is an
important
risk
fac-
tor.
For
example, Parker
et al.
(1994) assessed adolescents' physical stature
I
] 0
LOUGHLIN
AND
FRONE
Copyright American Psychological Association. Not for further distribution.
by
both
body weight
and
body mass. After controlling
for
age,
both
mea-
sures
of
stature revealed
that
small workers were more
likely
than
large
workers
to
experience back
injuries
while
lifting.
Personality
Personality
has
been
implicated
as a
potentially important risk factor
for
work injuries among adolescents
(NIOSH,
1997).
It
seems plausible
that
adolescents with certain personality traits
may
have
a
higher risk
of
work
injuries
because they
are
more careless, reckless,
or
distractible.
A
number
of
specific
personality characteristics have been suggested
as
risk factors
for
work
injuries. Sensation
seeking
represents "the need
for
varied, novel,
and
complex sensations
and
experiences
and the
willingness
to
take physical
and
social risks
for the
sake
of
such experiences" (Zuckerman, 1979a,
p.
10).
Compared with those
low on
sensation seeking, those high
on
sensation
seeking report less anxiety when faced with
risks,
and
they appraise novel
situations
as
less
risky
and
more pleasurable (Zuckerman, 1979b).
This
sug-
gests
that
adolescents high
in
sensation seeking
may be
more likely
to cut
corners
and
ignore
safety
rules
and
regulations, thereby increasing
the
risk
of
work
injury.
Negative
affectivity
refers
to the
chronic experience
of
nega-
tive emotional states
and a
lack
of
emotional
stability
that
may
lead
to
lapses
in
attention
or to
higher levels
of
distractibility,
thereby increasing
the
risk
of
work
injury.
Rebelliousness
represents
the
extent
to
which individ-
uals
are
frustrated
and
defiant
when they
are
exposed
to
regulations,
cannot
freely
govern their behavior,
or
cannot
initiate independent decisions (e.g.,
McDermott,
1988).
It
seems likely
that
rebellious adolescents
may
con-
sciously
ignore rules
and
regulations regarding
health
and
safety.
Such
behavior
would
increase
the
likelihood
of
experiencing
injuries
at
work.
Impulsivity
represents
the
propensity
to get
things done quickly
and to act
suddenly
with little forethought
for the
consequences
of
one's
behavior
(Plutchik
& van
Pragg, 1995). Therefore, impulsive employees
may
rush
to
complete
a
task without adequate consideration
of
safe
operating proce-
dures,
resulting
in
increased
risk
of
injury.
There
is
much evidence showing that
a
number
of
personality
dimensions
are
related
to
risk-related behaviors among adolescents, such
as
dangerous driving practices, drinking
and
driving,
alcohol
use,
sex
without
contraception,
and
illicit
drug
use
(Arnett,
1992;
Harre,
2000;
Jonah, 1997; Stanford, Greve, Boudreaux, Mathias,
&
Brumbelow,
1996).
Moreover,
there
is
some evidence among adults
that
personality
is
predictive
of
work
injuries
(e.g.,
Cooper
&
Sutherland, 1987; Iverson
&
Erwin, 1997; Sutherland
&
Cooper,
1991).
However,
we are
aware
of
only
one
study
that
explored
the
relation
between personality
and
work
injuries
among employed adolescents. Frone (1998) reported that higher
levels
of
negative
affectivity
were related
to
being
injured
at
work
in a
YOUNG WORKERS'
OCCUPATIONAL
SAFETY
/ I I
Copyright American Psychological Association. Not for further distribution.
sample
of
employed adolescents, though
there
was no
multivariate rela-
tion
between rebelliousness
and
impulsivity with work injuries. Clearly,
more research needs
to
explore
the
relation
between personality
charac-
teristics
and
work injuries among
adolescents
before
any firm
conclu-
sions
can be
reached.