Report: Youth worker injury data, compliance could be strengthened

GAO study focuses on youth worker population, fatalities

Posted December 5, 2018

A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends the Department of Labor (DOL) evaluate the feasibility of measuring injuries and illnesses in the youth worker population and establish metrics for child labor-related outreach in agriculture.

GAO was asked to update its 2002 child labor report to discuss the current status of working children in the U.S., including those working in agriculture. The agency found 2.5 million youth aged 15-17 were employed in the summer months of 2017, most in the leisure and hospitality industry.

The report notes that although agriculture employs a small percentage of working children, DOL data indicate that from 2003 to 2016, the year for which the most recent data are available, over half of the 452 work-related fatalities among children were in agriculture.

Also, according to DOL estimates, the number of work-related injuries and illnesses to children has declined, but these estimates do not include certain populations. While DOL is conducting a pilot study to enhance its work-related injury and illness data, this pilot does not include children, including those 14 or under.

GAO recommends DOL evaluate the feasibility of measuring injuries and illnesses in the youth worker population, specifically children aged 17 and under, child household workers, and those employed on farms with 10 or fewer workers. GAO says data from these populations would more accurately quantify injuries to children, which in turn could better inform DOL’s compliance and enforcement efforts. The report also recommends DOL establish metrics for child labor-related outreach in agriculture. DOL generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations.


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