Saf Health Work.  2019 Mar;10(1):3-20. 10.1016/

Occupational Safety and Health Among Young Workers in the Nordic Countries: A Systematic Literature Review

  • 1National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway.
  • 2National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • 3Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.
  • 4Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
  • 5Norce, Norwegian Research Centre, Bergen, Norway.


This review aimed to identify risk factors for occupational accidents and illnesses among young workers in the Nordic countries and to attain knowledge on specific vulnerable groups within the young working force that may need special attention. We conducted a systematic review from 1994 to 2014 using five online databases. Of the 12,528 retrieved articles, 54 met the review criteria and were quality assessed, in which data were extracted focusing on identifying occupational safety, health risk factors, and vulnerable groups among the young workers. The review shows that mechanical factors such as heavy lifting, psychosocial factors such as low control over work pace, and organizational factors such as safety climate are all associated with increased injury risk for young Nordic workers. Results show that exposures to chemical substances were associated with skin reactions, e.g., hand eczema. Heavy lifting and awkward postures were risk factors for low back pain, and high job demands were risk factors for mental health outcomes. The review identified young unskilled workers including school drop-out workers as particularly vulnerable groups when it comes to occupational accidents. In addition, apprentices and young skilled workers were found to be vulnerable to work-related illnesses. It is essential to avoid stereotyping young Nordic workers into one group using only age as a factor, as young workers are a heterogeneous group and their vulnerabilities to occupational safety and health risks are contextual. Politicians, researchers, and practitioners should account for this complexity in the education, training and organization of work, and workplace health and safety culture.


Accidents; Illness; Injury; Work; Youth
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