10-Year-Old Wrestles Alligators, and Other Dangerous Jobs for Kids

samantha youngA 10-year-old Colorado girl is following the family tradition of wrestling alligators at the family farm, and has even trained U.S. soldiers in the art of tackling the deadly predators.

It's not a job for the squeamish, but Samantha Young can handle getting on the back of an 5-foot, 60-pound alligator and keeping its mouth shut -- a skill she started learning at age 5, always with her dad nearby.

"I keep expecting her to get bit one day," her dad, Jay Young, told AOL Jobs in a telephone interview. " I figured she'd get complacent and get an injury." But it hasn't happened yet, he said.

"She doesn't have a single scar on her from an alligator," he said.

There are some 350 alligators at the Colorado Gators Reptile Park, and Samantha teaches visitors how to tackle them. The 50-pound girl has shown U.S. Marines and others how to wrestle alligators, which her dad says requires a simple method: "Don't hesitate and don't let go."

While her job is at a family park and it's unclear if she's paid for wrestling gators, at least it isn't among the five worst teen jobs of 2010, as reported by the National Consumers League:

  1. Traveling Youth Sales Crews
  2. Construction and Height Work
  3. Outside Helper: Landscaping, Groundskeeping and Lawn Service
  4. Agriculture: Harvesting Crops
  5. Driver/Operator: Forklifts, Tractors, and ATV's

As teens compete with experienced adults for jobs, the worry is that the difficulty will lead to teenagers taking jobs that are too hazardous for them. More youths ages 10 to 19 die from injuries than from all other causes combined, according to the NCL. Some job-related deaths may have been avoided, such as a 14-year-old working with a wood chipper, if they weren't working illegally. Child labor laws make it illegal for anyone under 18 to work on a wood chipper.

Some jobs that students take on aren't dangerous at first glance, but can be if they don't have the proper equipment. The 16-year-old daughter of Julie Bonn Heath, of Seaside, Ore., has a summer job working with horses as a guide for summer rides on the beach. She has been stepped on once, causing her mom to buy her $50 steel-toed boots. Her daughter earns $8.50 an hour, the minimum wage in Oregon, and is saving for a car and college.

The worst teen job -- being part of a traveling youth sales crew -- is something I did while in high school many years ago. And as a newspaper editor I've gotten phone calls from worried parents who haven't had their child returned home on time after being out with a manager trying to get people to subscribe to the newspaper.

I remember being dropped off in Oakland, Calif. -- one of the most violent cities in the country -- near dusk on a summer night with other high-school students my age, and given sets of knives to give to customers who bought our pitch to subscribe to the local paper. Nothing happened to us, and it didn't occur to me till years later that being dropped in Oakland and asking people if they wanted some knives that I had with me if they bought the paper, was a bad idea. We weren't warned about murder, robbery, assault and other crimes that are committed against such work crews.

Injuries are more likely than death in these dangerous teen jobs. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the causes of workplace injuries typically fall into these categories:

  • Unsafe equipment
  • Stressful conditions
  • Inadequate safety training
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youth
  • Trying to hurry
  • Alcohol and drug use

Samantha, the alligator wrestler, is hopefully safe since her dad supervises her, although it sounds like a stressful job. Let's hope she isn't trying to hurry and gets injured; although you'd think that hurrying to get an alligator under control would be part of the job description.

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