Five of the Most Common Workplace Injuries for Young Workers
young worker in construction outfit

Young or newly hired employees are getting injured more often than older, more experienced employees. Workers from the ages of 16-24 had a higher risk of injury or illness than any other age group, often as a result of the many hazards that are present in their workplace. Some of these hazards can be slips, trips, and falls, overexertion, lacerations, contact with objects or equipment and burns.

What is Considered a Young Worker?

Before we continue, I’d like to define “young worker.” In the past, the term “young worker” was commonly used to describe workers who are protected by state and federal child labor laws. Today, the term “young worker” is being used more and more to describe young adult workers – those between the ages of 18-24. They are also considered new employees and are at a higher risk of being injured on the job.

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019 there were over 19 million workers under the age of 24, representing 12% of the entire workforce. In 2019, 409 workers under the age of 24, and 34 workers under the age of 18, died from work-related injuries. The causes of death vary, but it’s important to note that there are several common workplace injuries that occur in every industry that youth and new workers are at risk for.

Five of the Most Common Workplace Injuries

Some of the most common workplace injuries that occur are slips, trips, falls, lacerations, burns, and injuries as a result of lifting heavy objects.

1. Slips, trips, and falls. 

Slips, trips and falls are the most common types of workplace injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 244,000 slip, trip, and fall-related injuries in 2019. These injuries commonly occur when: 

  • Falling from a ladder, scaffolding or other platform
  • Falling on a same-level work surface, such as in a kitchen
  • Slips and trips due to wet and slippery surfaces, poor lighting or poor housekeeping

2. Lacerations. 

Young workers that are employed in restaurants and grocery stores are at a higher risk of injury when working with box cutters/utility knives, sharp knives and food slicers. 

Employees at a greater risk of lacerations include:

  • Deli workers
  • Food service assistants
  • Cleaning crews
  • Grocery store employees

About 80% of these injuries are cuts and lacerations to the hands and fingers. Lacerations  can be serious injuries resulting in a physical impairment that can last a lifetime.

3. Burns.

According to the American Burn Association (ABA), each year over 450,000 Americans seek emergency medical treatment for a burn injury. Young workers in the hospitality and foodservice industry including wait staff, cooks and food preparers are at a significant risk for heat-related burns and scalding injuries when they work with hot objects and substances. This type of workplace injury can be very severe and may require hospitalization or cosmetic surgery.

4. Heavy lifting.

According to the BLS, there are, on average, 21.8 injuries per 10,000 workers due to heavy lifting/overexertion. This is the second highest incidence rate for workers between the ages of 16-24. 

Young workers, especially those in the foodservice and grocery industries, are at a significant risk due to lifting heavy boxes, crates, larger bags and buckets, which can lead to sprains, strains and tears.

5. Contact with objects and equipment.

Young workers can be at significant risk of injury as a result of getting caught in running equipment or machinery in a variety of industries. In fact, the BLS states that this type of injury has, on average, 40.8 injuries per 10,000 workers between the ages of 16-24. This is almost twice as high as the second-highest incident rate.  

Equipment and machinery-related  workplace injuries typically occur to workers in the wood/paper industry, metal fabrication, material handlers, cooks and bakers, resulting in lacerations and broken bones.

Workplace Injury Prevention Measures for Young Workers

Now that we went over some of the most common causes of loss that occur to young and new workers, let’s go over some of the ways that workplace injuries can be reduced.

Pre-screening Processes are Essential for Preventing Injuries

First, youth and new employees should go through a rigorous pre-screening process. You should ensure that all workers are fit for their roles and do not have any limiting physical conditions. 

Additionally, there should be a formal orientation program that all new employees go through, including a review of company policies, the employee handbook, and the company safety policies.

Comprehensive Training Can Prevent The Most Common Workplace Injuries

Young workers should receive the necessary safety training from their supervisors or managers to start their new job. Additionally, they should also receive periodic safety training after they are hired so they can continue to complete their job in a safe manner. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an employer has the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. You need to ensure your employees are receiving the necessary training about workplace hazards and required safety gear.

Types of Training to Prevent Workplace Injuries

There are numerous types of safety and injury-prevention training every industry can benefit from. Some of these include training employees to:

  • Practice good housekeeping: Keeping floors clean and dry can go a long way in preventing injuries. Train your employees how to properly clean and signal wet floors following spills.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE): Protective eyewear, cut gloves, helmets, and earplugs or earmuffs should always be worn when applicable. Train your employees to properly fit their equipment for maximum functionality, safety and comfort. 
  • Stay organized: Staying tidy and organized is essential to safety, and can prevent hazards from coming up in the first place. Additionally, disorganized employees may feel the need to rush and neglect safety practices. 

Watch our webinar on ‘Proper Floor Care Procedures.’

Understanding Child Labor Laws

If you have ever hired young workers under the age of 18, you should already know that child labor laws prohibit any worker under the age of 18 from work in a hazardous occupation. Employees under the age of 18 cannot:

  • Operate heavy machinery, power tools or drive vehicles 
  • Operate commercial cooking or baking equipment
  • Perform any construction jobs. 

Employees over the age of 18 should be properly trained on all the tools and equipment they will use to perform their job safely. Also, tools and equipment should be properly maintained and guarded.   

Implementing Basic Safety Training for Young Workers is Essential

We’re aware that young or newly hired employees face a higher injury rate than older, more experienced employees. Workplace injuries can have major consequences for an employee and their employer, such as:

  • Costly medical payments 
  • Workers’ compensation paperwork
  • Reduced productivity 
  • Lowered employee morale 

Fortunately, there are ways of reducing the impact and likelihood of workplace-related injuries. A good first step is to implement safety training for your young workers and new employees.   
Society Insurance’s risk management team can help your business identify and eliminate key risk areas. Contact your local agent to learn more about how Society Insurance can protect your business.


Jay graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a B.S.E. degree in Occupational Safety in 1985. He began his career working in the risk control departments of various insurance companies. He joined the Society Risk Control Department in 1999.

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