Helping Students Know Workplace Rights and Speak Up

Student Day at Oregon GOSH 2013.

Last summer, the Promoting U Through Safety and Health (PUSH) Program developed activities for young workers focused on developing and improving critical skills related to communication, safety on the job and wellness. The scripted activities were originally created to pilot test curriculum for the online PUSH health and safety training with Portland Parks and Recreation’s Aquatics Department employees under the age of 24, but PUSH project staff wondered if these activities would be useful beyond their intended purpose.  Might these activities be used as tools for health and safety educators and employers to talk about workplace safety and health?

Two of these activities were unveiled at the 2013 Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health Student Day. Fifty students from around Oregon attended Student Day, which started off with a moving presentation by Matt Pomerinke, of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ Injured Young Workers Speakers Program. As someone injured on the job when he was 21, Matt’s story provided a message to the students highlighting the need to know your rights and to speak up when faced with dangerous situations at work.

Students were surveyed to collect information about their workplace safety knowledge and then worked in small groups to complete the PUSH Speaking Up and Know Your Rights activities. During the Speaking Up activity, students had a chance to demonstrate different ways to talk to a supervisor, showing either professional or unprofessional behaviors. This was followed by a discussion on how the two ways were different, and the benefits and drawbacks of each. The Know Your Rights activity, incorporates a modified BINGO game from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Talking Safety: Youth @ Work curriculum, with a focus on young workers rights. These short activities received positive feedback from the students and were a great way to convey information on safety in the workplace.

Student Day at Oregon GOSH 2013.

The findings from the survey given before the activities began demonstrated that these types of short workplace safety and health conversation starters could be beneficial for young workers in Oregon. For example, of those surveyed, only 41% knew that if you’re injured on the job, your employer must pay for your medical care and only a little more than half of the students knew when to wear personal protective equipment. We hope to have these tools available on the PUSH website by the end of summer 2013.

We’d like to give a special thanks to O[yes] members who organized the 2013 GOSH Conference Student Day, especially, Dede Montgomery, Laurel Kincl, and Helen Moss, as well as our O[yes] volunteer mentors, David Grim, Cory Stengel, Meagan Shaw, Michelle Hurn, Kevin Pfau, and Paula Jones. PUSH is an Oregon Health Workforce Center Project, and is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Submitted by Megan Parish, Research Associate, CROET.




One response to “Helping Students Know Workplace Rights and Speak Up

  1. It is great to see programs like PUSH teaching the younger working generation about occupational health and safety. It sounds as though your workshops were a success and this may be something to look into for employers and employees across the nation. Thank you for sharing.

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