The Work Environment: Health and Safety Training

Health and safety training for workers is considered an essential component of comprehensive occupational health-and-safety programs (Keyserling, 1995; U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, 1985). In fact, more than 100 standards promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration explicitly require employers to train employees in the safety and health aspects of their jobs (U.S. Department of Labor, 1992). Although rigorous evaluations of training programs are limited, studies of adult workers suggest that safety training may reduce injuries and acute illness among young or inexperienced workers (Jensen and Sinkule, 1988; Perkins, 1995; Van Zelst, 1954). It is reasonable to assume that lack of training could affect working children and adolescents, who are by definition inexperienced, to a greater extent than adults. Recent, consistent evidence shows that young workers do not receive adequate health and safety training at work. General surveys of working youth find that about half of the young workers surveyed report no such training (Bowling et al., 1998; Runyan et al., 1997). Of 180 students interviewed in California, few had received any information about job safety from anyone at their workplaces or schools (Bush and Baker, 1994).

When I worked at [fast food chain] I thought the grill was hazardous.... I didn't receive any training, I was just thrown into it because someone didn't show up for work that day.

High school student in focus group Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Knight et al. (1995) surveyed 146 14-to 16-year-olds who were treated in hospital emergency rooms for occupational injuries: 54 percent of the respondents reported no safety training at all. These youngsters were much more likely to have serious injuries—involving eight or more days of restricted activity—than were those who had received such training. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (1998) reports that only 50 percent of 300 teens injured at work indicated they had received health and safety training on the



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