Child labor going largely unchecked

Nery Castaneda tackled a job that was never intended for kids his age.

One afternoon last fall, the 17-year-old Guatemala native ran a machine to grind damaged pallets into mulch. When a co-worker at the Greensboro plant returned from another task, he didn't see Nery – until he looked inside the shredder.

“A person shouldn't die like this,” said older brother Luis. “…He came with a dream and found death.”

Decades after the enactment of regulations designed to prevent such tragedies, thousands of youths still get hurt on American jobs deemed unsafe for young workers. On a typical day, more than 400 juvenile workers are injured on the job. Once every 10 days, on average, a worker under the age of 18 is killed, federal statistics show. added

Enforcement has waned, despite new evidence that many employers are ignoring child labor laws. U.S. Department of Labor investigations have dropped by nearly half since fiscal year 2000.

“There are lots of kids being asked to do work that's been prohibited for them – and it's been prohibited because it's dangerous,” said Carol Runyan, who heads UNC's Injury Prevention Research Center. “…Our system is failing them.”

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