- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

Brad Hurtig's first day on the job was his last. . A few hours into the night shift at an Ohio metal stamping company last month, the 17-year-old football star got his hands caught in a power press and both had to be amputated.
He was one of more than 500 teenagers who are injured at work every day on average.
Adam Carey had worked at a country club north of Boston for barely a month when the golf cart he was driving slammed into a wooden deck, crushing his chest.
At 16, too young to be driving a golf cart under Massachusetts law, Adam was one of 73 teens killed on the job in 2000 about one every five days.
Millions of teenagers hope to make money this summer toiling at the mall, a restaurant or some other place with a "Help Wanted" sign.
About 4 million 15- to 17-year-olds earn paychecks during summer vacation, according to the Labor Department. Eight in 10 teens will work during high school.
Some employers don't do all they could to keep teens safe. And many young people are unprepared and too focused on getting paid to grasp they could be hurt or killed.
"We're finding that they're not entering the workplace with an understanding of the law that's there to protect them," said Darlene Adkins, who runs the National Consumers League's Child Labor Coalition. The advocacy group sees the most danger in:
Driving and delivery, including operating or repairing motorized equipment.
Working alone, and late at night, in businesses where money is exchanged.
Cooking, with exposure to hot oil and grease, hot water and steam, and hot cooking surfaces.
Construction and working at heights.
Traveling youth crews: groups of children recruited to sell candy, magazine subscriptions and other items in neighborhoods and on street corners.
At a fast-food restaurant near Youngstown, Ohio, a teen was burned after the boss insisted he dump the contents of a deep fryer into a plastic bucket, a state official said. The bucket melted, releasing hot grease that melted the boy's shoes and caused him to fall into it.
Judy Elliott, who runs the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, said many teens are too inexperienced or poorly trained to recognize dangers in places like restaurant kitchens, where doing multiple tasks is common.
"It's hard to be safe when you're running in five directions," said Miss Elliott, whose program tries to educate high school students about job safety.
Andrew Britton, of Marietta, Ohio, was hospitalized for three days last summer after his leg was slashed on his second day of work at a recycler, causing nerve damage and requiring 30 stitches.
He was 14 then, and said he only remembers getting a general warning to be careful. But Andrew said what happened was an accident and no one's to blame.
He is painting murals this summer.
Federal and state laws on child workplace safety can be confusing. And what teenager even thinks about reading them?
Before starting as a supermarket cashier, Jeff Williams, 16, of Gibbstown, N.J., said he was trained on how to handle spills, falls and broken items.
Asked what he knew about the labor laws, Jeff said: "We have signs posted all over the place, but I don't think anyone reads them."
Many teens, after all, feel invincible.
"One of the problems with being a teenager is you think you know everything and that's worse in the labor market," said Jeffrey Newman, who runs the National Child Labor Committee.
Jelinus Watson, 16, of Atlanta, worked with his father in construction last summer although he was a year too young under federal law to be employed in what was the deadliest industry of 2000.
"Half the time I was scared out of my mind," said Jelinus, who is working at an amusement park this summer. "A hard hat doesn't cut it. I would much rather work as a ride operator."
At the time of his accident on June 10, Brad apparently was unsupervised and using equipment not meant to be operated by a minor, said Robert Glenn, spokesman for Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
Tami Lupton, speaking for the boy's employer, A-Stamp Industries, of Bryan, Ohio, said the Hurtig youth was supervised but she declined to discuss the accident further.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating.
In Massachusetts, Adam's driving apparently didn't violate federal law, which bans workers under 17 from driving on public roads. The Kernwood Country Club in Salem is private.
But it was illegal under state law. No criminal charges were filed in the case, and the state Attorney General's Office declined to comment. The federal occupational safety agency fined the country club $1,000 for not reporting Adam's death within eight hours.
His mother, Maggie, wishes she had paid more attention to the fact that he was driving.
"We assumed that that was an acceptable thing for him to do," she said. "Being a kid, he certainly didn't sit down and read the laws. Even if he did, if they said that he could operate [golf carts], he's a kid. Of course he's going to want to do that."
Now she urges friends to know what their children do at work and to know the law.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide