Work setting, hazards are key injury risk factors for youth

In brief

  • In general, when it comes to injury risk among teenaged and young adult workers, the type of job or workplace matters more than the nature of the young workers themselves.
  • The main factors predicting work injury among young workers are work setting, job characteristics and visible minority status. When job and workplace factors are accounted for, a young worker's gender and age are not associated with work injury.
  • In addition to education, a focus on eliminating unsafe work conditions would benefit young workers.

Published: January 2007

Why was this review done?

Teenaged and young adult workers have higher work injury rates than older workers. These injuries sometimes lead to permanent impairments such as chronic pain, scarring or reduced mobility. Since most North American teenagers and young adults do work, it's important to try to understand what causes their increased risk of injury. By understanding these risks, appropriate measures can be taken to prevent injuries.

How was the review done?

The reviewers searched seven databases for peer-reviewed studies published between 1980 and 2005 on young workers. After reviewers identified studies that were relevant to the research question, they assessed each study for quality. Two researchers reviewed each study independently and reached consensus on the quality. After this process, nine studies of sufficient quality remained.

What did the reviewers find?

Job characteristics, such as the presence of work hazards or the perception of being overloaded or pressured to work faster, were associated with work injury among young workers. The workplace setting was also linked to injury, in particular, for restaurant jobs and manual labour. A young worker's gender, age (relative to others within the 12- to 24-year-old range) or personality traits — such as impulsive behaviour or rebelliousness — were not related to work injury rates. However, being a visible minority was related to risk of injury.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the review?

The systematic methods in this review ensured that the search was comprehensive and the quality assessment of individual studies was objective.