OBJECTIVE: To examine patterns of occupational injury deaths of 16 and 17 year olds in the United States for the three year period 1990-2, examine trends since the 1980s, and compare fatality rates with those of older workers. METHODS: Occupational injury deaths were analyzed using the death certificate based National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) surveillance system. Fatality rates were calculated using estimates of full time equivalent (FTE) workers based on data from the Current Population Survey, a monthly household survey. RESULTS: There were 111 deaths of 16 and 17 year olds for the years 1990-2. The average yearly rate was 3.5 deaths/100,000 FTE. The leading causes of death were motor vehicle related, homicide, and machinery related. All causes occupational injury fatality rates for 16 and 17 year olds were lower than for adults for 1990-2. Rates for the leading causes of death (motor vehicle related, homicide, and machinery related) were comparable or slightly higher than the rates for young and middle aged adult workers. Although rates decreased dramatically from 1980 to 1983, the decreasing trend attenuated in later years. CONCLUSIONS: Comparisons of youth fatality rates to those of adult workers should address differences in patterns of employment, most importantly hours of work. Comparisons to narrow age groupings of adults is preferable to a single category of all workers 18 years and older. Increasing compliance with federal child labor regulations could help reduce work related deaths of youth. Other measures are needed, however, as there are many work hazards, including those associated with homicides, that are not addressed by United States federal child labor law regulations.
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