Every day, young workers face injury, illness and even death on the job. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that about 1.5 million teenagers from 15 through 17 years old work in the United States. Studies show that nearly 8 of 10 high school students in the United States work at some point during their school years. Each year, about 60,000 of these young workers are injured seriously enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. Data also show that workers under age 25 are twice as likely as adults to be injured on the job.
Young people continue to enter the workforce with little-or-no preparation for the risks and hazards they face. To address this, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) introduced a new initiative called “Safety Matters” at AIHA’s Fall Conference in Orlando, Florida on October 26-27, 2015. The goal is to equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need to participate in safe and healthy work environments throughout their working lives.
The core of “Safety Matters” is a 1-hour interactive teaching module and slide presentation targeted to students in grades 7 through 12. Volunteers can use the presentation to teach students core competencies for being safe and healthy on the job, including:
- All workers can become injured, sick, or even be killed on the job.
- Work-related injuries and illnesses are predictable and can be prevented.
- Employers are responsible for, and workers have the right to, safe and healthy work.
Students will also learn how to identify hazards and emergencies at work and decide on the best ways to address them. They will be taught how to find resources to help keep workers safe and healthy on the job. Finally, they’ll learn how workers can communicate with others—including people in authority—when they feel unsafe or threatened.
The “Safety Matters” presentation is based on a full curriculum called “Youth@Work: Talking Safety” that NIOSH developed for schools throughout the United States. Already in use in the Miami-Dade County Public School System, the curriculum is customized for all states, territories, and the District of Columbia. It gives a foundation of knowledge, skills, and abilities that students need to actively participate in staying safe and healthy on the job. Although the “Talking Safety” curriculum is intended for use by trained educators, “Safety Matters”helps volunteers to bring the message of workplace health and safety to school districts that haven’t implemented the full curriculum.
We Need Your Help
NIOSH and AIHA need your help to prepare young people for a lifetime of safe and healthy work. Take a few minutes to review the “Safety Matters” program and the “Talking Safety” curriculum. Spread the message of workplace safety and health to young people by presenting the “Safety Matters” program to students in your local schools. Volunteer to bring the full “Youth@Work: Talking Safety” curriculum to your local school district and help make occupational safety and health part of career readiness for all young people.
To get started, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/safetymatters/ to download your free “Safety Matters” presentation. Let us know what you think about this program.
Rebecca Guerin, MA, is coordinator of the NIOSH Safe-Skilled-Ready Workforce Initiative (SSRWI).
Andrea Okun, DrPH, is associate director for global collaborations and co-coordinator of SSRWI.
Deborah Hornback, MS, is a health communications specialist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division.
Christopher Storms is a health communications specialist in the NIOSH Education and Information Division.