Speaking Out for Young Workers

Speaking Out for Young Workers

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


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Young Worker Digest- February

Over the past couple of weeks, I have a read a series of articles related to young workers ranging from citations being issued by OSHA for companies that have severely injured young workers to articles citing what young workers want out of their first jobs. Here is a collection of those articles for you to read.

Legal News:

In Arizona, lawmakers propose to make an amendment to the minimum wage law that would allow for employers to pay young workers less than minimum wage. The text reads as follows:

D. An employer may pay a wage up to three dollars per hour less than the minimum wage for an employee under twenty years of age if either of the following apply:

1. The employee works less than twenty hours during the week.

2. The length of the employment is less than ninety days.

Here is a link to the actual bill: http://www.azleg.gov//FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/50leg/2r/bills/hcr2056p.htm&Session_ID=107.

At the federal level, proposed rule changes to child labor law in the agriculture industry has become of firestorm of political debate in Washington and across America's farmland. I encourage you to not only ready this recent article from AgWeek about this continuing debate over child labor law, but to take the time to read the section "Real Risks." As a safety and health professional, I am somewhat alarmed how most articles I have read from various news media focus solely on the partisan politics side of things, missing the real reason these rule changes were proposed in the first place- the young workers who have lost their lives while working on the farm. Case in point, on the most recent OSHA QuickTakes, I was brought to a news release regarding US Department of Labor's OSHA citing a grain company after 2 teenage workers suffer leg amputations at Kremlin, Okla., facility. Check it out.

 I also encourage you to read through the testimony from Nancy J. Leppink, Deputy Wage and Hour Administrator regarding these rule changes.

But what about the young workers? What are their thoughts? NPR had an interesting story about the mining industry and how it is attracting young workers this morning. There is a link to either listen to the story or read the article, but either way the message is clear- the financial gains for working in the mines appear to far outweigh the risks associated with working in the mines for the young workers that were interviewed. Which is interesting if you have read the National Geographic Article that described the physiological wiring of the teenage brain.

In the Pew Research Center's recent article, "Young, Underemployed and Optimistic: Coming of Age, Slowly, in a Tough Economy," a more clearly defined picture of what our next generation of workers is up against becomes glaringly clear, yet encouraging. In spite being hit hard by tough economic times, the young workers remain optimistic about their future. However, the story underlines that with high unemployment rates among young workers (in this article defined as those between 18-24), forty-nine percent of those surveyed report having taken a job just to make ends meet. Which brings me back to the story from NPR this morning about young workers flocking to the mines because of the high salaries- are we doing all we can to protect their safety as they embark on these dangerous jobs?



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


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