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= Protecting

, =

The Health o f Young W orkers
in Wartime



Publication 291

United States Department o f Labor
C h i l d r e n ’ s



l\5f c,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

B u r e a u

List o f References
Children’s Bureau, U . S. Department of Labor: 1
A ge as a Factor in Susceptibility of Young Workers to Toxic Substances,
by W illiam M . Schmidt, M . D .
January 1943.

Reprint from Journal of Pediatrics,

Fair Labor Standards for Children.

Folder 6.


Guides to the Successful Employment of N on-Farm Youth in W artim e

Publication 290.

Guiding the Adolescent.


Publication 225.


Hazardous Occupations Subject to a M inim um Age of 18 Years Under
the Fair Labor Standards A ct. Folder 27. 1943.
Occupational Hazards to Young Workers: Report N o. 6— Radioactive
Substances. 1942.2
The R oad to G ood Nutrition.

Publication 270.


Safeguarding Young Workers in W artim e Agriculture; report of Con­
ference on Supervision and Employment Conditions for Young
Workers in W artim e Agriculture, June 1 8 -1 9 , 1942.
T h e Child, August 1942.

Reprint from

W artim e Employment of Boys and Girls U nder 18. Publication 2 8 9 .1 9 4 3 .
W h ich Jobs for Young Workers:
N o. 1. Employm ent o f Young Workers in W a r Industries.
N o. 2. Advisory Standards for Shipbuilding.
N o. 3. Advisory Standards for Lead and Lead-Using Industries.
N o. 4. Advisory Standards for Employment Involving Exposure to
Carbon Disulfide.
N o. 5. Advisory Standards for Employment Involving Exposure to
Chlorinated Solvents.
New York State Department of Labor:
Child Health in Relation to Employment.
Bulletin, January 1942.

Reprint from Industrial

Minors in Industry, by Beatrice M intz, M . D .
Bulletin, January 1939.

Reprint from Industrial

Office o f W a r Information:
Recommendation on Hours of W ork for M axim um Production by a
Committee Representing the W a r Department, Navy Department,
M aritim e





W ar

M anpow er

Commission, W a r Production Board, Commerce Department, and
Labor Department. J)ecember 1942.
W a r M anpow er Commission:
Policy on Employment of Youth U nder 18 Years of Age.


by the Children’ s Bureau, U . S. Department o f Labor, with a
message from the Chief of the Bureau.
i Single copies of the Children’s Bureau publications m ay be obtained from the Bureau. Subsequent
bulletins and additional information m ay also be obtained from the same source.
* The other reports in this series are also available for distribution; they are not listed here because they
relate to accident rather than health hazards. These reports provided the factual basis for hazardousoccupations orders issued under the child-labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards A ct of 1938.

F o r sale b y th e S u p erin ten d en t o f D ocu m en ts, U . S. G o v e rn m e n t P r in t in g Office
W a sh in g ton . D . C. - P rice 5 cen ts
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Protecting the Health o f Young
W orkers in "W artim e
Protecting the health of the thousands of new, young workers
who are flocking into jobs— in war plants, in stores and offices,
in laundries, hotels, restaurants, and places of amusement, and
on farms— is a matter of urgent concern to all citizens. There
is need today, as at no other time since the first World War,
for an organized and persistent community effort to take care
of the health of young workers. The task challenges the re­
sourcefulness of the whole community— health and labor
departments, placement officers, schools, employers, profes­
sional workers, parents— indeed, every public-spirited citizen.
Rough estimates indicate that about 2 million boys and
girls between 14 and 18 years of age were employed in October
1942, more than twice as many as in April 1940. M ore than
3 million were employed during the 1942 summer vacation.
As the demand for labor grows more urgent, the number of
young workers will undoubtedly increase still further. Hun­
dreds of thousands of boys and girls are expected to work
on farms during the coming summer.
Great numbers of youngsters have left school for employment.
Thousands more are working outside school hours, often at
jobs too strenuous to be carried in addition to their school work.
For instance, a survey of the employment outside school hours
of pupils in junior and senior high schools made in one eastern
State revealed that children from 11 to 18 years of age were
employed in all sorts of enterprises— from setting pins in
bowling alleys to sheet-metal work in aircraft factories. They
were working 6 and 7 days a week, 40, 50, and 60 hours a
week, and at night till long after midnight. Boys 16 and 17
years of age were working the “ graveyard” shift in factories
and girls of 16 worked from 3 to 11 p. m. after a full day’s
attendance at school. This situation is not unique. Surveys
of part-time and full-time work in other areas reveal similar
conditions detrimental to the health and welfare of children.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

W h y Special H ealth Protection?
When we see a lively teen-age youngster assembling parts
in a factory or harvesting crops in the field, the jo b may appear
no more taxing upon him than upon the mature worker along­
side him. Actually, the adolescent is carrying a heavier load
than the adult. Boys and girls in their middle teens are
growing rapidly. They are undergoing many physical and
emotional changes. The rapid growth, in fact, the whole
maturing process, throws an added strain upon the young
worker. And because he is still growing, he is especially
susceptible to unfavorable health conditions that may even
alter the course of his physical development. Thus every­
thing that interferes with his normal growth— overfatigue,
improper or insufficient food, inadequate rest, or lack of
fresh air, of sunshine, and of exercise— may have a lasting
effect upon him.
The adolescent is probably more susceptible than the adult
to industrial poisons. And he is more liable to have acci­
dents because he is more venturesome than the adult and has
less knowledge of hazards. He likes to take risks and is apt
to neglect the use of protective measures in jobs involving
health or accident hazards.
Safeguarding the health and safety of young workers should
be a public concern at all times. It becomes doubly impor­
tant in wartime when young, immature, and inexperienced
workers are expected to handle jobs previously performed by
adults, and under the pressure of war-production goals.
Nevertheless, there is danger that our natural preoccupation
with production may lead us to pay too little attention to the
welfare of young people, upon whom the Nation’s future
depends, at precisely the time when their protection is most

W h a t Special H ealth Protection?
Physical Check-up Before Employment.
Children of the same age vary greatly in their physical
capacity. Some teen-age boys and girls are less mature
physically than others of the same age and cannot stand as
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

strenuous exertion. Some have physical defects or weaknesses
which the wrong type of jo b may aggravate into life-long
handicaps. For a few young people any jo b may be a danger
to life. For example:
Tuberculosis may show no outward symptoms in its early stages.
W h en large groups of presumably healthy boys and girls are examined,
a few are usually found with hitherto unsuspected infections.


of these young people m ay need special care if they are to recover.
For them any type o f work may lead to catastrophe.
ber are likely to have infection in inactive form.

A larger num ­

W ork m ay carry

no special hazard for these boys and girls if conditions are favorable,
but work at a jo b too strenuous m ay cause the infection to flare into
active disease.

Defective vision m ay be a serious handicap to a young person who
performs work involving long-continued, close use of the eyes.

N ot

only does the defect limit his efficiency on the jo b , but the continued
eye strain m ay result in permanent damage to his eyes.


vision also increases liability to accident.

A hernia is likely to become exaggerated if the individual undertakes
work that involves much standing, carrying, or lifting.

Heart disease m ay occur in young people in varying degrees of severity.
It is most often caused by rheumatic fever.

This m ay leave the boy

or girl with a heart so seriously impaired that it is obvious he should not

It may, however, leave no sign that his heart is damaged;

the danger then lies in the possible recurrence of the rheumatic fever.
A boy or girl with such latent heart disease should not undertake a job
in which strenuous work, overfatigue, or other unfavorable conditions
will lower his resistance to the disease.

It is extremely important that young people be given physical
examinations before they are employed, to determine whether
the proposed jobs are suited to their physical capacity. Such
examinations are already required in a number of States before
employment certificates are issued to children 14 and 15 years
of age. On the basis of these examinations a certificate may be
denied altogether if the child’s health would be imperiled by
employment in any job. Or a limited certificate may be issued,
permitting his employment only in specified jobs under speci­
fied conditions and requiring reexamination within a few
The practice of giving physical examinations before employ­
ment should be extended as widely and rapidly as possible, for
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

older youth as well as for youngsters 14 and 15 years of age.
It is desirable that the examining physician be designated by
the authorities responsible for issuing employment certificates
and be accustomed to considering young people’s physical
condition in relation to employment. The certificating author­
ities may call on the local health departments or the school
health service to provide the examining physicians and other
personnel and facilities necessary for the work. When re­
sources for examinations are inadequate, school health records
might be utilized as a means of checking at least for major
defects, such as cardiac conditions and hernia.
But preemployment examinations are not enough. They
should be followed by remedial care of boys and girls found to
have defects. Such care should be made available through
organized community programs. If possible, provision should
be made also for regular follow-up examinations to make sure
that the young worker’s health is holding up under the job, and
to spot and treat early any injury to health that may have
occurred since he started on the job.
Protection Against Hazardous Jobs.
Young people seldom attain full muscular development before
they reach 18 years. Boys under 18, as well as girls, should,
therefore, be excluded from jobs involving the lifting of heavy
weights and from other heavy labor because of the danger of
excessive fatigue and of serious muscular strain.
Because of their susceptibility to injury from industrial
poisons, workers under 18 should be excluded also from jobs
involving exposure to toxic substances, even though control
measures considered adequate for adults are in effect. And
because such young workers lack mature judgment and
caution, they should be kept from jobs involving high risk of
accidental injury.
Many hazardous occupations are now prohibited for workers
under 18 by State laws and regulations and by Federal hazard­
ous-occupations orders issued under the Fair Labor Standards
Act. For fields of work not yet covered by these orders, sug­
gestions as to which jobs are suitable for young workers and
which jobs are too hazardous for them are being issued in a
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

series of advisory standards prepared by the Children's
Bureau, called Which Jobs for Young Workers and listed on
page n.
Protection Against Overfatigue.
It is poor economy in the long run to prolong working hours
beyond a certain point. Excessive fatigue not only reduces
the efficiency of the young worker but may lead to accidents
and, if long continued, may damage his health. T o prevent
overfatigue, boys and girls under 18 should not be permitted
to work more than 8 hours a day or 48 hours a week either
on farms or on other jobs.
In most States the standards mentioned are a matter of
law, at least for children up to 16 years of age, in many fields
of employment. The child-labor laws of 42 States now have
a maximum workweek of 48 hours or less for workers up to
16 or 18 years of age in a range of occupations that varies
from State to State. These standards are also a matter of
National policy. In a joint statement to war contractors and
other war-production agencies, eight Government agencies
that have major responsibility for the successful conduct of the
war have recommended an 8-hour day and a 48-hour week
as the best work schedule for sustained efficiency in most in­
dustrial operations. (This statement is listed on page n.)
For youngsters who attend school and who also work, these
same limits should be put on the combined hours of school
and work— except that, as school is likely to be different from
a job and less strenuous, a total of 9 hours a day may not be
too much for some boys and girls of 16 and 17.
Working hours shorter than 8 a day and 48 a week may be
essential for young people on jobs that call for marked physi­
cal exertion, monotonous and repetitive work, continuous
standing, or continuous sitting in one position. Growing boys
and girls should have variety and free movement in their
activities. The confinement and monotony of repetitive fac­
tory work for long hours, especially when a speed-up system
permits no moments of relaxation on the job, take their toll
among young workers in nervous strain and chronic fatigue
or in accidents.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Young people need adequate lunch and rest periods and at
least 1 day’ s rest in 7. They should be spared the added fatigue
of night work. Uninterrupted sleep during the daytime is
difficult, especially under the crowded living conditions in
many defense areas, and young people who work on the night
shift are unlikely to obtain the rest they require for healthful
A H ealthful Environm ent on the Job.
The amount of strain in a young worker’s jo b depends on the
surroundings in which he works as well as on his working hours.
Adequate lighting and ventilation are of great importance
and should be provided on all indoor jobs. From working in
light too poor for the type of work performed, boys and girls
may develop permanent visual defects. Breathing the atmos­
phere of a poorly ventilated room over long periods has a
depressing effect. It hastens fatigue and diminishes the appe­
tite. When the operations performed create dust or fumes,
even nontoxic fumes, the worker should be protected by effec­
tive exhaust ventilation.
Seats should be available in all workrooms so that during the
work period boys and girls may sit for short intervals, at least.
In sedentary occupations the type of seat provided assumes
special significance. Unless chairs are properly designed,
serious posture defects may develop in young workers engaged,
for example, in office work, in the needle trades, and in light
assembly work in many types of war production.
Sanitary toilet facilities and an approved water supply are
essential to health for all workers, young and old, in all jobs.
On farms good water should be made conveniently available
to workers in the fields.
Appropriate care in case of illness or accident while on the
job should be planned for. In small plants and on farms a
readily available first-aid kit and the training of some workers
in first aid may be all that is possible. In larger plants pro­
fessional care by physicians and nurses in well-equipped
dispensaries should be provided.
Meals During W orking Hours.
Growing boys and girls are always hungry. They must have
generous amounts of the right foods for their healthful physical

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

development. Factories that employ young people should
make it possible for them to obtain nourishing meals, regard­
less of their hours of work, and also food to supplement lunches
they bring to work. For the well-being of students carrying the
added strain of employment, school lunches assume special
importance. Both on the jo b and in school a lunch period long
enough to permit an unhurried meal at a table should be
A H ealthful Environm ent Outside W orking Hours.
The conditions under which young workers live affect
their health and efficiency almost as much as do the conditions
under which they work. Suggestions as to the living conditions
suitable for boys and girls recruited for farm work have already
been published by the Children’s Bureau in the booklet,
Guides to the Successful Employment of Non-Farm Youth in
Wartime Agriculture. In this publication (included in the
list of references on p. n) it is pointed out that work camps
and farm homes should have good sanitation and a safe water
and milk supply, and should afford nourishing food and ade­
quate rest and recreation. These essentials of health protec­
tion are no less important to young workers living at home.
The right kind of recreation is also important in keeping
young workers well. Athletics, for example, can give a big
boost to the well-being and the spirits of boys and girls con­
fined all day at sedentary, repetitive jobs. Young workers
who do heavy laboring jobs, however, may find relaxation
and stimulation during their leisure hours in social activities
or in creative ones, such as arts and crafts, music, and
Health and Safety Education.
Young workers need to appreciate the importance of pro­
tecting their own health and to understand what such pro­
tection means. There should be programs of health and safety
education directed to the special needs of boys and girls on
the job. These should be so planned as to arrest the attention
of young people and enlist their understanding effort in the
protection of their health.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

W h a t Can V arious Groups D o ?
Health officials are in a strategic position to assume leadership
in developing health protection for young workers in war­
time. They can sponsor educational programs to awaken the
community to the importance of this protection. In cooper­
ation with the schools and other groups they can organize or
give advice on programs for physical examinations, for medi­
cal care, and for other follow-up and corrective services.
The leadership of county health departments will be needed,
especially in developing plans for the provision of medical
care for young farm workers if they are sick or have accidents.
Through vigorous enforcement of laws and ordinances per­
taining to sanitation, water supply, and other public-health
essentials in factories, schools, homes, and work camps, and
on farms, health officials serving in city or country can make
sure that standards for health protection are maintained.
State labor departments, as the agencies responsible in most
States for enforcing child-labor and other labor laws, can do
much to protect boys and girls against work at too early an age
or under harmful conditions. Through careful supervision of
the issuance of employment certificates, where this is their
function, they can also contribute greatly to upholding good
child-labor standards. They should be a source of information
as to the extent of child labor and the conditions under which
young people are working.
Employment offices and placement workers can help by referring
boys and girls to jobs for which they are fitted physically, as
well as by training and ability. They should develop and
expand their junior placement and vocational counseling into
individualized services for all young people seeking work.
Employers should take responsibility for providing good work­
ing conditions and for limiting hours of work for boys and
girls. They should place young people in jobs suited to their
age and strength, and should exclude them from jobs with
serious accident or health hazards. They should also see that
young workers are trained in safe methods of work.
Schools can contribute facilities for physical examinations and
follow-up. They can adapt their hot-lunch program to the

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

requirements of students who have jobs outside school. If
other agencies do not offer vocational-guidance and juniorplacement services, schools should give these services in order
to steer students into occupations for which they are fitted.
Schools should be active in protecting boys and girls who are
working after school by watching to see that the kinds of
employment they enter and the hours they work are not detri­
mental to them. Through health-education activities the
schools should convince young people of the importance of safe­
guarding their health themselves.
When issuance of employment and age certificates is a school
function, the school can make an additional contribution to
the health and legal protection of young workers by issuing
the certificates promptly and carefully.
Youth-serving agencies are in a position to promote public
understanding of what should be done to keep young workers
well. They can guide them into employment having proper
safeguards and can help them to accept responsibility for their
own health. They can promote health directly by offering
recreational and leisure-time activities to satisfy young work­
ers’ need for play, relaxation, and companionship.
Parent-teacher associations, labor unions, and other organized groups
can play a vital part in this program of health protection.
They can find out where and under what conditions boys and
girls are being employed and what is being done to keep them
in good health. They can cooperate with other groups to
make sure that health services are available to young workers.
Physicians, through their contacts with young people and
their families, are frequently in a position to point out the value
of having a physical examination before beginning work and
periodic health check-ups. They can often advise boys and
girls about jobs suited to their physical capacities.
All physicians should be alert to the health problems of young
workers. Those who are concerned with school health, indus­
trial hygiene, or community health programs should make
special effort to have these programs available to and known to
young working people, who for one reason or another often fail
to benefit from them fully.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Social workers, public-health nurses, and other professional workers
who are in a position to advise the families of young workers
can help them understand what health protection boys and
girls should have and through which local resources needed
medical or related services may be obtained.
Parents can help their children to protect their own health.
Parents can learn about community facilities for health services
and vocational guidance and can encourage their children to
use them. They can take opportunities to get and use the
latest information on nutrition and other health factors, so
that to the limit of their means they may make a healthful
home environment for their children.
The young workers themselves can do much to protect their own
health. They should plan their time so as to get enough sleep,
fresh air, exercise, and nourishing food. On the jo b they should
scrupulously observe all health and safety precautions. They
should take advantage of the opportunities the community
offers for physical examinations and other health services, for
vocational guidance, and for constructive recreation.

Protecting O u r Future M anpow er
Young people want to contribute to victory. The Nation
needs their contribution. But all individuals and groups must
be aware of the danger of exploiting young people in the name
of the war effort. The War Manpower Commission has stated
in its Policy on Emploment of Youth Under 18 Years of Age:
T h e first responsibility and obligation of youth under 18 even in
wartime is to take full advantage of their educational opportunities in
order to prepare themselves for war and post-war services and for the
duties of citizenship.

* * * But it is recognized that the demands of the

war period will increase the number who in normal times leave school
to enter full-time employment before reaching 18.

In any case all

forms of emplo^mra.# of such youth, including employment in agriculiuBe, muct be specially safeguarded.

Their services must be used in

such ways as to bring about their m axim um contribution to manpower
needs consistent with the protection of their health and welfare and the
fullest utilization and development of their aptitudes, abilities, and


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis