Start the Conversation: New supervisor tool released


It may seem like a no-brainer that employers should give all new workers safety training. For example, it would be outrageous for someone to walk onto a flight and announce, “Good evening folks, I’m going to be your pilot today and it’s my first flight ever, so please buckle your seatbelts, sit back and enjoy the ride.”

Research, however, shows as many as 80% of young workers don’t receive safety training. Despite the many positive attributes of young workers they often lack the same level of experience and skill that older workers possess, attributes which can be an advantage in maintaining safety at work. In fact, young workers are twice as likely to be injured on the job than their older counterparts, a statistic that highlights the importance of young worker safety training efforts.

To address this need, the translational research project called Promoting U through Safety and Health (PUSH) combined the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) existing classroom-based safety curriculum with health topics into an online training designed specifically for young workers. The specialized training uses videos, images, and real-life examples to demonstrate the importance of workplace safety and methods for staying safe on the job. In 2013 the training was evaluated with young employees of Portland Parks and Recreation. Durable changes in knowledge were observed over a three-month period.

However, workplace safety requires a multi-level approach that recognizes and emphasizes the role of the employer in keeping all workers safe. In addition to the training, a series of supervisor-led activities were developed to help young workers and supervisors have discussions about safety, health and communication on the worksite. The Start the Conversation activities expand on topics addressed in the PUSH training and facilitate the development of an open path of communication between young workers and their supervisors. Activities like “Workplace Hazards” helps make a concept like identifying hazards in the workplace relevant and engaging. In this activity, young workers and supervisors identify hazards in their workplace and brainstorm ways to make the job safer.

The 21 Start the Conversation scripted activities are now on the web and can be downloaded for free at Each activity can be completed with two or more young workers and range in length from about 10-20 minutes.

Submitted by Megan Parish, Research Associate, Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, Oregon Healthy Workforce Center

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