Speaking Out for Young Workers

Speaking Out for Young Workers

Commentary and news on occupational health and safety for young workers.



Lights! Camera! Action!

Lights! Camera! Action!

The Center for Young Worker Safety and Health is pleased to announce the 2012 Poster and Video Contests! We are thrilled that FabEnCo is sponsoring cash prizes for the winners of each contest. One team member from the grand prize winning team and a chaperone (e.g. parent/guardian/teacher) also receive a trip to Washington, DC for the North American Occupational Safety and Health Week! For more information about the contest and details on how to enter, please check out the following website:


Winners from last year’s contest included:

Eric Beeler (age 16)- from Centennial High School located in Roswell, GA won the Grand Prize for the Public Service Announcement Video Contest His video is titled “You’re not Alone.” His teacher is Dr. Thomas Washburn. The first place video winning team is Akelah Martin and Rashad Rodney, and the second place video winner is Aisha Davis. Tam Huynh (age 17) and Raymond Zettlemoyer III (age 15)- from Charles Drew High School located in Riverdale, GA won the Grand Prize as a team for the Struck- By Poster Contest. Their Architecture and Design Teacher is Mr. Arnold Drake. Their poster is titled “Get the message.” The first place poster winner is Darriel Holloman, and the second place poster winner is Alexandra Hinson with her poster.


Job Opening for a Student at the Center for Young Worker Safety and Health at GTRI


Student Research Assistant (Occupational Safety & Health- Center for Young Worker Safety and Health at GTRI) ELSYS 

Contact information: jenny.houlroyd@gtri.gatech.edu

Company Ref:  Occupational Safety & Health 

 Professional Areas:  Industrial Engineering, Industrial Hygiene, Public Health, Engineering, Science or related field 

 Location:  ELSYS 

 Job Type:  All 

Job Commitment: Hourly as needed (approximately 10-20 hours per week)

Length of Commitment: Initial assignment would be from January (or hire date) through September 2012. There is a potential extension of the project for up to four years.

Department:  Electronic Systems Laboratory

Description: Seeking to hire a student studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Computational Media (BSCM) or Masters in Digital Media.

In 2010, over 328 people ages 15-24 were killed on the job. Young workers, who make up 14% of the US labor force, are disproportionately represented in dangerous job such as construction, transportation, agriculture, and mining. Young workers are twice as likely to end up in the emergency room when compared to workers 25 and older. This project is intended to reach out to these young workers as they enter the labor force and provide interactive, engaging training resources, which have the potential to not only prevent injuries and illnesses, but to also save lives. The student must be energetic and eager to use their creative capabilities to assist in the development of these training resources designed to protect workers.

Student will assist in the development of training programs to educate young workers for the Center for Young Worker Safety and Health at Georgia Tech.  This will include developing online games to be used as training tools.

Primary tasks include:

  • Conduct an analysis to determine what training is already available
  • Assist in designing and developing the context for converting the live training to online training and games
  • Assist in the developmental process of designing the future stages of the process
  • Assist with data management of course participants and course evaluation survey results


To apply- please send your resume to Jenny Houlroyd, Project Director of the Center for Young Worker Safety and Health at GTRI at jenny.houlroyd@gtri.gatech.edu



Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero Award

We wanted to pass along the following information about an award program for those heros protecting children from unhealthy school conditions. Check it out!

March 18, 2012 is the 75th anniversary of the1937 Texas School Explosion.  The 1937 Texas School Explosion was the worst school disaster in American history. It was a gas explosion that killed more than 300 people, mostly students, just minutes before the end of the day in their new state-of-the-art public school.  The Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero Award, announced in anticipation of March 18 each year, was created as an annual opportunity to inspire leadership and partnerships to protect children from the chemical hazards and unhealthy conditions in today's schools.  Do you know someone whose sense of responsibility, inspirational leadership, and exemplary persistence and courage protects children from school hazards and unhealthy school conditions? If so, then please send your hero's name, email/phone #, and story by February 15, 2012 to Ellie Goldberg at healthykids@rcn.com

Risks for Young Workers in the Restaurant Industry

 By Carlos Rios

To prepare for working in the real world, adolescents and young adults have many opportunities to learn about the responsibilities they will face on the job. School, extracurricular activities, chores, and work are just some examples of the responsibilities they take on during this time in their lives. Despite the importance of being responsible for everything you do, nothing has a higher priority than one’s own safety. According to several studies, workers ages 15 to 24 years old are twice as likely to be hospitalized due to workplace hazards when compared to workers over 25 years of age. Safety hazards, as well as worker rights violations, lead to physiological and psychological harm, both temporary and permanent.


If you were asked what workplaces these injuries and violations occur in, what would be your answer? Would it perhaps be construction? Factory and machinery? Chemical plants? While these workplaces are likely places for injuries and safety violations to occur, the fact is that every job industry has some form of safety hazard. Most recently, one industry you may have thought of as safe has received the news spotlight regarding safety and health hazards in the workplace – and that is the restaurant industry.


Earlier this month, a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in Pooler, Georgia was mentioned in the news for injuries of persons who were exposed to an undetermined air contaminant. Nine individuals were injured or made ill from the events, including three firefighters, an employee and a family of three. Unfortunately, one person, an 80-year-old woman, died due to the exposure.


It was discovered that a ruptured pipe in the soda fountain machine was to blame. The pipe, which carries carbon dioxide to and from the machine to give soft drinks their fizz, broke within the restaurant walls, seeping carbon dioxide out into the women’s bathroom. Because the bathroom was small, there was little room for the carbon dioxide to dissipate, leaving insufficient oxygen in the air; this lack of oxygen resulted in those exposed experiencing injuries like light-headedness, and ultimately resulting in one death.


While an incident like this seems very unusual and rare, this is the third time in six years at a McDonald’s restaurant alone that this situation has happened. Reports of the injured employee at the Pooler restaurant are unclear as to whether he or she was a young worker. However, at the preceding incidents in Florida, one injury and death occurred to a 24-year-old pregnant woman and an 18-year-old man, respectively.


In addition to safety hazards, worker rights violations occur. Local Atlanta fast food chain “This Is It! BBQ and Seafood” was recently cited for violations in workers pay regulations and labor time restrictions for young workers. According to an investigation conducted by the US Department of Labor, workers under 16 years old at some of the chain restaurant’s locations were allowed to work later than 9PM in the summer (June 1 through Labor Day) and later than 7PM during the school year. Regulations created by the Fair Labor Act (FLSA) prohibit workers younger than 16 to work outside of 7AM to 7PM, more than 3 hours a day and 18 hours a week between Labor Day and June 1. Also these workers are not allowed to work outside 7AM to 9PM, more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week, between June 1 and Labor Day. Because of these violations, This Is It! BBQ and Seafood was fined $1,867, and was required to pay $104,089 in back wages to 230 restaurant workers.


Both of these incidents mentioned posed many risks to young workers. The carbon dioxide leak at the McDonald’s in Pooler could lead to temporary or permanent lung damage, which could affect breathing and cause other health issues in the future. In addition, the exposure could very well lead to death, as tragically happened to the 80 year old customer and a young worker at the restaurant in Florida. As for the violations at This Is It! BBQ and Seafood, working long hours or late nights can affect these workers’ academics. This could lead to poor grades and possibly not graduating from high school; it can also cause problems in the future should a young worker decide to attend a higher-learning institution or apply for another job.


As with any hazard or violation, situations like these can be prevented. Not only is it the obligation of employers to do their best to prevent them from happening, but of employees as well. From reporting hazards to your employer to filing a report with OSHA, there are many ways young workers can speak up to keep themselves and others safe from harm.


To young workers everywhere: just think of it as another important responsibility you are given as you prepare yourself for the real world.

For more information about the incidents, check out the following links:

McDonald's:  http://savannahnow.com/news/2011-09-14/carbon-dioxide-blamed-pooler-mcdonalds-death#.Tntf-uuhC_U


This is It BBQ:  http://www.cbsatlanta.com/story/15400939/230-this-is-it-bbq-seafood-employees-recieve-back-pay


Thinking of Hiring a Young Worker?

If you are thinking of hiring a young worker, let me reccomend reading the following article. The article includes 8 helpful ways to tap into the talent that these young workers have. Check it out.

Tapping Top Young Talent: How to Attract the Best and the Brightest of the Millennial Generation


Putting right people in right places -- it's a timeless management challenge. But business leaders of late are universally lamenting this age-old issue with a new twist: "Who are all these young people flooding the workforce, and how do I get the best and brightest to work for me?"


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