A new report from the National Consumers League lists the most dangerous jobs for teenage workers, and among them are some that involve a lot of Iowa youth. Darlene Adkins, vice-president of the National Consumers League, says farm jobs are at the top of the list for injuries and deaths among young workers. Agricultural jobs mean field work and processing, she explains, kids working as hired hands on farms around the community but, she adds, not necessarily on family farms. Adkins says agriculture in general is one of the top 3 most dangerous industries, for all workers, in the United States. Unlike other industries, half the young victims in agriculture are under fifteen. She says one reason is that younger children can work in the field, under US child-labor laws. Kids as young as ten can legally be hired to work on farms. She says those may include children in migrant farm families, or kids in rural communities who may find a rural food-processing or farm job near their home. Second on the list of dangerous jobs for teens is construction.She says some tasks are prohibited for them, like working on roofs. But Adkins says there are many other areas where they can work, and get hurt, from working on elevated surfaces where they may fall, to getting electrocuted. The annual list has a new job category on it this year — “outside helper.” Adkins says that includes jobs like landscaping, grounds-keeping and lawn services. Many people think it’s just pushing a mower or planting flowers, but she says they may be up high trimming trees, handling dangerous chemicals, running a tractor or riding ATV’s. She says workers under 18 can’t legally run a forklift, but many are hurt on tractors and all-terrain vehicles. She says an increasing number of young people are hurt operating heavy equipment, and others fall off or are hurt when a tractor backs over them. Loads can drop on them, and kids are injured while riding as a passenger. The fifth category is different — traveling youth crews. She says you’ve seen kids selling candy on streetcorners in cities, or ringing doorbells to sell goods or magazine subscriptions. While not so many work in this field Adkins says it’s “exploitive and highly dangerous.” She says teens are riding in vans with strangers, being taken across state lines into strange cities and going up to strange houses. They’re paid according to how much they sell and so may earn less than minimum wage and seldom get paid. They’re under the influence of crew leaders who often have criminal records or suspended driving licenses. Adkins says “It’s just a really bad thing for young people to get involved in and we just say don’t do it.” Adkins says the stories are collected from state labor departments and the stories of workers themselves. It doesn’t mean young people shouldn’t look for jobs, but that they’d better remember there can be hazards. She urges employers to be sure they understand child-labor laws and don’t put young workers at risk. “We don’t want the first job to be the last job for these kids,” Adkins says.
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