Speaking Out for Young Workers

Speaking Out for Young Workers

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


editor's blog

National Public Health Week Movie Premiere Night by Carlos Rios

This year, National Public Health Week ran from April 4 to April 10. This year’s was titled “Safety is NO Accident”. As my supervisor Jenny Houlroyd mentioned before this theme was perfect for the Center for Young Worker Safety and Health at GTRI, as this is what we focus on a daily basis.


The kickoff event was held at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University that consisted of a movie premiere night, which featured guest speakers, presentations and videos addressing worker safety and health.


The night started with providing delicious popcorn and beverages to the attendees. Jenny Houlroyd, Art Wickman, and I had some trouble figuring out how to work the popcorn machine. After successfully making our first batch, we instantly became pros.


Afterwards, the kickoff event began with a presentation by Shakiyla Smith, Deputy Director in the Department of Emergency Health at Emory University. Her presentation focused on statistics of worker injury and death in the workplace. The main eye-opener was that workers in the 15-24-age range had the highest incidence of the types of injuries and deaths that occur in the workplace when compared to other age ranges. These statistics that Ms. Smith presented made a good and appropriate transition to Jenny Houlroyd’s discussion about the Center of Young Worker Safety and Health at GTRI, which focuses on that particular age range. Both presentations tied in well with each other and were a great way to start off the various other events that took place throughout National Public Health Week.


Up next were a series of videos relating to young worker injury and death. The first video detailed the tragic Triangle ShirtWaist fire that occurred in 1911. The fire caused the death of 146 workers, some of whom were as young as 14 years old. What led to so many deaths was the fact that the managers locked the doors to the emergency exits to prevent any workers from stealing from the factory; they were always checked through secured exits to see if any goods from the factory were stolen. This tragedy led to improving factory conditions and the formation of unions to protect factory sweatshop workers.


The next two videos consisted of common workplace safety scenarios, which were filmed and edited by our other student worker, Dylan Demyanek, and me. The first portrayed a laboratory scenario where a new chemistry teaching assistant is severely injured due to the lack of personal safety equipment and proper handling of chemicals. The other video dealt with the psychological damage and fear a convenience store worker received after cashing out the store alone. Both videos featured Rollins School students, whom we appreciate for taking time out of their busy schedules to make these videos possible.


Dylan and I had greatly enjoyed the video production process, as we were both able to apply what we had learned in the video production class at Georgia Tech. One filming trick we utilized was the splicing of audio and video from two separately filmed scenes, since all the actors for one video were not available to film at the same time. Remarkably the video turned out very well despite this setback. As of now, we established a template in which to edit the next set of scenarios, which we look forward to filming in the near future.


In conclusion, the kickoff event was a great start to National Public Health Week. I am hopeful that events like these were able to educate the public about worker safety and health and that they will be supportive of the mission of NPHW..


What did you do for NPHW this year?


Until next time.



National Public Health Week Planning

Image of staff filming videos for training.

This year, the American Association of Public Health choose "Safety is NO Accident" as its theme for National Public Health Week (NPHW), which runs from April 4- April 10, 2011. At our offices at GTRI, we were ecstatic when we learned about this year's theme because injury and illness prevention is what we do on a daily basis. During the initial planning for the week's events, we realized that since two employees in our office (Hilarie Warren and myself) are alums of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University (Rollins), it would be an excellent opportunity to collaborate with them. Since we needed to film videos for our Young Worker safety and health training for the online modules and Rollins had students willing to be actors and actresses, we went to work last Friday filming the first two of nine short videos. These videos are designed to highlight typical experiences where young workers are faced with difficult decisions related to safety and health in the workplace. These scenarios are designed to educate young workers about their rights and responsibilities as an employee and to encourage discussion on how they can stand up for their rights and handle workplace safety problems.

These videos, in additional for several other videos will be featured at a NPHW kickoff event at Rollins where students, faculty, and community members will come together to discuss the topic of injury and illness prevention on Monday, April 4th at 6 pm.

This was my first experience filming, and it was a great one! Even though on a typical day I serve as the project director for the Center for Young Worker Safety and Health at GTRI, on this day I got to be the operator of the boom microphone. Well, let's give myself a more glorious title: sound technician? I think that will do.

My co-worker HIlarie Warren did an excellent job coordinating the event with Jennifer Lynn Richards, the current president of the Rollins Student Government Association at Rollins. This included securing space for filming, procuring the props for the scenes, making sure the actors and actresses had the appropriate costumes, and timing the whole thing. Our amazing student worker, Carlos Rios, did all of the filming and directing of the scenes. A special thanks goes to the Computational Media Department here at Georgia Institute of Technology for loaning the equipment and training its students so well. And we had some amazing volunteers from Rollins, who gave up parts of their day to star in videos that will be used to educate young workers about injury and illness prevention and their rights are as an employee.

Specifically, I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to:

For the “Laboratory Safety video”:

  • Mary Mbaba, who stared as "Keisha," a graduate student conducting research in a laboratory
  • Robby Gladem who stared as "Tony," a young worker starting out as a new teaching assistant
  • Hilarie Warren who stared as "Professor McDougal" a chemistry professor

Thank you to Professor Barry Ryan, Geneva Bernoudy, and Dean Surbey, all from Emory, who helped allow this scene to happen.

For the “Convenience Store video”:

  • Taiwo Talabi, who stared as "Marcus," a store clerk
  • Gabriela Aguilar, who stared as a customer at the convenience store
  • Parini Shah, who stared as "Jessica," a 18-year old cashier
  • Opaneye Kare, who stared as "Terry," the store manager

Thank you to Chris Munkel, Chef Leslie, Joe Mitchell, and Dean Surbey, all from Emory, who helped to allow this scene to happen.


I cannot wait to see how the editing portion of this project works out. Right now both Carlos and the other student research assistant, Dylan Demyanek are working hard on the editing to make sure it is ready for Monday night.

I am looking forward to National Public Health Week.

What are your plans for NPHW?

Until Next Time,

Jenny Houlroyd

My Experience at the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia Career Expo 2011

By Carlos Rios

On March 17-18, the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (CEFGA) held its Career Expo at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. According to their website, GEFCA’s mission is “to raise the profile of the construction industry and position careers in construction as a top choice for any student pursuing a well-paid, exciting and rewarding professional life.” In order to do so, they partner with construction companies, trade associations, the Technical College System of Georgia, and the Georgia Department of Education to support training programs and encourage students to pursue careers in construction. This was evident in their expo, as many construction and utility companies, in addition to technical and vocational schools, were present with interesting, informative exhibits.

Young Worker Safety and Health at Georgia Tech Research Institute was present at the expo with exhibits focusing on safety in the workplace. One exhibit in particular was GeRTI, a mannequin with a sound level meter implanted in her ear. With an iPod placed in her ear, visitors at the expo can see the type of hearing damage that can be done when listening to music at full volume. This demonstration not only shows the health effects from iPods, but also those from work related activities, such as loud construction machinery and demolition explosives.

In relation to my work, one great aspect of the exhibits was the hands-on experience students interested in pursuing construction were able to gain. This opportunity gave the students a better idea of what they desired to pursue after graduation. In addition, I was happy to see that the hands-on exhibits focused on SAFETY and HEALTH in the workplace, something my research group and I focus on and emphasize during our live training courses. The exhibits showed proper equipment to be used as well as how to use them. In addition, my coworker had the opportunity to actually use heavy duty construction equipment. The focus on safety was prevalent, as each visitor also received a hard hat and safety glasses upon registration to wear when entering the expo. 

Another great aspect of the expo was the opportunity to be inspired with ideas that I can use for work. One building construction exhibit had an interactive, three dimensional display of a fast food restaurant. The display focused on key construction aspects, such as eco-friendly and safe materials used to build the restaurant (i.e. insulation made of shredded jeans and fluorescent lighting which used lesser energy than other lighting options). In order to see the information about these aspects, users had to touch the icons on the display. The 3D animation and interactivity gave my coworker and me some good ideas on how we want to design our online training visually. We plan on learning how the display was designed, since we noticed it was in Flash, but somehow incorporated 3D models from some other software. Hopefully it will not be difficult to implement if we choose to use this idea.

Overall, the 2011 CEFGA Career Expo was a great experience. It was good to see so many high school students get excited about possible careers they might join, as well as see that the companies that attended had a tremendous focus on safety and health. Attending the expo also gave some good ideas and insight into teaching methods that Young Worker Safety and Health can use in the future. 

DOL News Release: OSHA to Support Career Expo- March 17 and 18th

I just received this press release from the US Department of Labor stating OSHA's support of this year's Construction Education Foundation of Georgia Career Expo, which is to be held March 17 and March 18 in College Park, Georgia. We are excited that we are working in collaboration with OSHA and other companies and organizations through the Georgia Youth Alliance to participate in this event. I would like to extend a special thanks to Brasfield and Gorrie. This construction company is instrumental in making sure that we will have an authentic area to provide "job-site" orientation and safety briefings to all those in attendance of the event.

I will be tweeting updates during the event using the hashtag #CEFGA. So be on the lookout for info on how we are promoting careers in not only constrution, but safety and health professional careers in the construction industry.

Georgia HOSA State Conference

Students working on developing their hazard maps.

Last week, my colleague Vicki Ainslie and I had the pleasure of attending the Georgia Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Annual State Leadership conference in Athens, GA. Participants of this conference are high school students and their teachers, who participant in the HOSA student association, which promotes students to study career opportunities in the health care industry and how to enhance the delivery of quality health care to all people. The students have the opportunity to compete in 54 competitive events that cover topics ranging from health science related events, health professions events, emergency preparedness events, leadership events, teamwork events, and recognition events.

We were there to present several sections of our young worker general safety and health awareness training. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet so many young individuals eager to learn about how to identify and protect themselves from safety and health hazards in the workplace.

Part of the class includes an activity where the participants get to actually map out where there are potential hazards in their individual jobsites. After the participants map out the hazards, they get in front of the class and discuss where the hazards are located, and then they classify the different types of hazards as being safety hazards, chemical hazards, biological hazards, “pressure cooker” or stress related hazards, or other types of hazards not otherwise classified. 

After the hazards were identified and mapped out, we discussed as a group what methods could be employed to make the jobsites they selected safer. The participants asked excellent questions and it lead to a discussion of work rights and responsibilities, in particular what young workers can and cannot do according to child labor laws.

For more information about the Georgia HOSA State Leadership Conference please visit their website.


Until next time,

Jenny Houlroyd



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