Millions of teens in the United States work. Approximately 2.4 million 16- and 17-year-olds worked in the United States in 2006. Surveys indicate that 80% of teens have worked by the time they finish high school. While few would argue that most work provides numerous benefits for young people, it can also be dangerous. In 2003, an estimated 54,800 work-related injuries and illnesses among youth younger than 18 years of age were treated in hospital emergency departments. Given that only one-third of work-related injuries are seen in emergency departments, it is likely that approximately 160,000 youths sustain work-related injuries and illnesses each year.
Despite the risk for injury, safety at work is usually one of the last things teen workers worry about. Youth@Work: Talking Safety is a comprehensive curriculum designed to raise awareness among young people about occupational safety and health and to provide them with the basic skills they need to become active participants in creating safe and healthy work environments. This curriculum is designed for use in a classroom or other group training setting, and has been customized for each state and Puerto Rico to address state-specific rules and regulations.
Youth@Work: Talking Safety consists of six modules, student handouts, overheads, a PowerPoint slide show, video, and interactive activities. Major topics include raising awareness of risks for teen workers, recognizing workplace hazards, understanding hazard control options, dealing with emergencies, understanding the rights and responsibilities of teen workers, and empowering students to communicate with their employer about workplace safety.
The activities highlight hazards and prevention strategies from a wide variety of workplaces. The materials are flexible and can be used as a stand-alone curriculum or may be incorporated into other safety programs. The curriculum includes instructions for teachers and a step-by-step guide for presenting the material as well as references to resources for more information.
This curriculum is the culmination of many years’ work by a consortium of partners dedicated to reducing occupational injuries and illnesses among youths. Youth@Work: Talking Safety is based upon WorkSafe!, developed by the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California, Berkeley, and Safe Work/Safe Workers, developed by the Education Development Center, Inc., (EDC) in Newton, MA. Both products were produced under grants from NIOSH as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, US Department of Labor; the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents; the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration; and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.
The activities in the Talking Safety curriculum were developed in consultation with numerous teachers and staff from general high schools, Career Clusters, school to work, work experience, and vocational education programs, as well as the California WorkAbility program, which serves students with cognitive and learning disabilities. The activities have been extensively pilot-tested and used by numerous high school teachers, job trainers, and work coordinators around the country to teach youths important basic occupational safety and health skills. The Talking Safety curriculum was evaluated in sixteen schools across ten states during the 2004–2005 school year. This final version reflects the input from all of the teachers, administrators, students, and partners who participated in that evaluation.
We appreciate comments on the curriculum and assistance in distributing Youth@Work: Talking Safety to high school teachers and those who work with young people.
Carol Merry Stephenson, Ph.D.
Dr. Stephenson is Chief of the Training Research and Evaluation Branch in the NIOSH Education and Information Division.