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Creating a Safer Workplace Through Young Worker Training

Workforce Development

By Tim Lawrence, Executive Director, SkillsUSA, from NCCER blog

While it is hard to believe, every nine minutes a young worker is injured at work, and every five days a young worker is killed on the job. Young workers between the ages of 16 to 24, have the highest rates of work-related injuries and illnesses compared to any other age group. I believe while it is crucial for construction teachers to strive to prevent injuries at school, it is also important to teach students how to protect themselves.

I have always been passionate about safety. I focused on it when I worked in industry and served on our company’s safety committee. When I left industry for education, I used safety as a positive focus for my welding classroom. I reinforced basic habits like wearing personal protective equipment and following safety protocol. Eventually, my students took occupational safety to heart.

Safety became a point of pride for my students, and we showcased that commitment to the community by offering plant tours, workshops, special events and a safety float in the holiday parade. My school won the SkillsUSA Occupational Health and Safety national contest for nine years in a row. This achievement led to greater industry support for my welding program and national recognition for my school.

After I left teaching, I continued to address safety through my work with SkillsUSA. Our organization partnered 14 years ago with K2Share, an information technology solution provider based in Texas. Together we discovered a common desire to facilitate student safety training. K2Share took the concept and ran with it, developing the CareerSafe online safety-training program for career and technical education students. Since then, more than 870,000 students have enrolled in the online courses.

As a former educator, I know that awareness of potential safety hazards is the single best way to prevent accidents, especially for young, new employees. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20 million people under the age of 24 entered the workforce in 2015.

To bring greater awareness of safety education to CTE educators and students, SkillsUSA partners with CareerSafe on an annual video competition. Teens are challenged to create a video demonstrating safety in the workplace. The winning students receive a prize pack and a scholarship of up to $2,500, and their school receives an award up of to $5,000. The contest is entertaining, challenging and helps keep occupational safety on the minds of young people across the country. Winners will be announced during the 2017 National Young Worker Safety Day event on June 20.

While new employees may arrive to the job site with basic safety training under their belts, the next step is to introduce these workers to companywide safety programs and overarching goals. Your safety protocol should focus on identifying hazards, finding ways to evaluate work practices and building awareness. As the students in my welding program learned, if you continuously talk about safety, you will always be more aware of its importance. Preparing students for safety on the job helps not only protect them, but their co-workers too.

A safer workplace can be built by providing basic safety training for all employees and developing a safety-focused mindset in all of your new hires. The bottom line is this: No job or deadline is worth a worker’s life.

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