Youth@Work: Talking Safety

Posted on by Carol Merry Stephenson, PhD

youth@work posterMillions 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.

Posted on by Carol Merry Stephenson, PhDTags

4 comments on “Youth@Work: Talking Safety”

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    This particular topic reaches past the confines of the workplace and into the lifestyles of young workers. The average adult worker will adjust their lifestyle in order to maintain proper sleep, while the average teen will increase their social life with increased income. One of the causes of workplace accidents is fatigue and I’d venture to say that younger workers are at a higher risk. As parents try to teach their children to make good choices and the school systems give them the knowledge to enter the working world and the workplace promotes safe work habits, we need to collectively promote good sleep habits.

    I am glad to hear about the California WorkAbility program that helps teens with cognitive and learning disabilities. Mental health issues like these are often misunderstood or overlooked. It’s nice to see that you are taking care of all the needs in your area. If anyone is interested in better understanding mental health and behaviour modification, I found this website that has free information and news articles concerning these things. I hope this helps.


    Il problema del lavoro minorile, così come quello delle morti violente sul lavoro, è un problema emergenziale dei paesi sviluppati e civilizzati. Occorre lavorare sui giovani, sulle scuole per inserire da subito una coscienza civile e sociale, dell’impresa e della produzione, che consenta di costruire una nuova e diversa classe dirigente nel mondo occidentale e industrializzato. Occorre impegnarsi di più in questa direzione, anche a partire dall’impegno individuale. Io sono da sempre disposnibile a lavorare più con i giovani e i ragazzi che non con gli adulti che oramai sono “persi”.

    English translation:
    The problem with youth at work, such as violent deaths on the job, is an urgent problem in developed, civilized countries. It is necessary to work with young people and in schools to develop their civil and social conscience about business and production, which is necessary for building a new class of leaders in the western and industrialized world. It is necessary to be more engaged in this direction, including expending individual effort. I am always available to work more with young people that adults have characterized as “lost.”
    (Translation provided by Susan Afanuh)

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Page last reviewed: November 23, 2016
Page last updated: November 23, 2016