NIOSH Offers High School Curriculum in Workplace Safety and Health

          Here are just two examples that identify the need for high school safety and health curriculum; on May 18, 2004, a 15-year-old Hispanic youth died after entering the hopper of a bark blower and becoming entangled in an auger.  On December 26, 2003, a 17-year-old warehouse worker was fatally injured when the sit-down type forklift he was operating outside the warehouse tipped over and crushed him.

          Has your child reached or is nearing an age he or she wants to earn?  Ask if the school where your child attends has a curriculum.  By the year 2010, 17.8 million youths aged 16–19 will work, up from 16 million in 2000, according to government forecasts.

          Young workers suffer a disproportionate share of injuries and fatalities, especially in the first year on the job.  In 2006, 30 youths under 18 died from work-related injuries.  In 2003, an estimated 54,800 work-related injuries and illnesses among youth less than 18 years of age were treated in hospital emergency departments.  Because only one-third of work-related injuries are seen in emergency departments, it is likely the actual number of such injuries among working youth is much higher, approximately 160,000 injuries and illnesses each year.

          Working teens, as a rule, receive little or no formal safety education and training, either in school or on the job.  To fill this gap, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers a new high school curriculum, “Youth@Work:  Talking Safety,” designed especially for young workers.

          NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. “Youth@Work:  Talking Safety” is part of a strategic NIOSH program of scientific research, outreach, and partnering for safe and healthy work for adolescents.  More information is available at, including print and electronic resources. 

          The curriculum is available to schools at no charge from NIOSH.  Materials include a course booklet, a PowerPoint teaching presentation and overheads for teachers, student handouts, and an informational video.  The curriculum is customized for each state and Puerto Rico to reflect state-specific rules and regulations for preventing work-related injuries among young workers.  Materials can be downloaded from the NIOSH web page at

          “This curriculum meets an important need as the number of working youths in the U.S. continues to grow,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D.  ”As an immediate benefit, as young people take summer jobs or part-time employment, it provides information that they, their mentors, and their employers can use now to stay safe.  Over a much longer term, it provides the foundation for a lifetime of safe, productive work for the next generation of men and women who will keep our economy strong in decades to come.”

          The curriculum is the culmination of many years’ work by a consortium of partners dedicated to reducing occupational injuries and illnesses among youth.  It builds on earlier curricula developed by the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California, Berkeley, and by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) in Newton, Mass.  Those earlier programs were produced under grants from NIOSH as well as from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau in the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

          NIOSH and its partners developed the activities in the new curriculum in consultation with numerous teachers and staff from general high schools; with school-to-work, work-experience, and vocational education programs; and with the California WorkAbility program, which serves students with cognitive and learning disabilities. 

          The activities have been extensively pilot tested, used, and evaluated by numerous high school teachers, job trainers, and work coordinators around the country to teach youth important basic occupational safety and health skills.

          Major topics under the curriculum include raising awareness of safety and health risks for young workers, recognizing workplace hazards, understanding options for controlling hazards, dealing with emergencies, understanding one’s rights and responsibilities as a working teen, and empowering the young worker to communicate with his or her employer about occupational safety and health.

For additional information about NIOSH, visit

For case studies of fatal work injuries among youths under the age of 18, and recommendations for preventing future deaths under similar circumstances, see

Share and Follow: