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Staying on the Safe Side.


These are real newspaper headlines: Two Apprentices, 18 and 20, Fatally Burned in Electrical Fire; 17-Year-Old Killed by Faulty Power Cord

With headlines like those in local newspapers throughout the country you'd think there would be an activist army afoot marching to the call of "save our kids!"

But there's not.

Protecting youth from occupational illness and injury may not get the same media attention as campaigns against drunk driving, Joe Camel cigarette ads, drug abuse or gang violence, but it's one of the most important responsibilities a vocational educator has. Every school day--in automotive repair classes, cosmetology labs, culinary arts kitchens--vocational educators must teach safety. Not only does it prevent classroom and lab injuries, it's part of preparing students for the job.

But in a recent study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related illnesses and injuries), more than half of all adolescents injured in a work setting said they did not receive adequate safety and health training from either their school or their employer. The National Safety Council reports that nearly half of all occupational injuries in the United States are suffered by employees with less than one year of job experience.

In response to these staggering stats, NIOSH has developed a safety education program aimed at students and new employees. The program comprises specialized safety curriculum packages (many of which are still in the works) in such areas as cosmetology, respiratory therapy and drywall construction.

These curriculum packages may help save lives and prevent injuries. Each was developed with input from about 50 vocational teachers, administrators and trade association representatives, all of whom agreed that the ideal safety curriculum should come from a single source; be in a simple, ready-to-use format; and give primary consideration to the learning preferences of students.

Delivering the product

This school year NIOSH is field-testing its first curriculum package--"Electrical Safety." It addresses five safety themes integral to the electrical trades: hazard identification, hazard control, personal protective equipment, safe work practices and safe working environments. The curriculum includes a manual for instructors and a condensed text of safety information for students; both include illustrations.

These materials include several classroom activities that encourage student participation and foster problem-solving skills. One such activity is the case study. Here's an excerpt from the electrical safety curriculum:

Greg, a recent high school graduate with some electrical training, decided to become an electrician. He got a job as an assistant to an electrical contractor. Since he was just learning the job, his work needed to be watched closely. Bob Mullins, a journeyman electrician with years of experience, watched Greg, who was eager to learn more about being an electrician.

One afternoon, Mr. Mullins and Greg went to a house to finish a pier lighting job. The entire job called for the installation of 10 110-volt lights along the right side of the 250-foot pier and the installation of a 220-volt circuit along the left side. Half the lights and the 220-volt circuit already had been installed by the contractor.

Greg said he would wire the lights under the pier while Mr. Mullins installed the fixtures above. Greg jumped into the waist-deep water and waded underneath the pier to begin the work. Mr. Mullins yelled down to him, "Don't touch anything until I check to see if the circuit is shut off!"

He walked toward the boathouse to check the circuit, not realizing that the circuit breaker for the 110-volt unit was located at the main house.

As Mr. Mullins got to the boathouse, he heard a loud moan and raced to where Greg had been working. He found Greg standing in the water with his back arched, both hands on the wire stripper. Greg had tried to strip a hot wire. Mr. Mullins knocked Greg's hands loose from the wire, jumped into the water and pulled Greg's limp body onto a lower section of the pier.

The teacher's manual suggests discussion topics for the entire class and small groups. These topics include technical safety issues as well as the social and economic costs of injuries. The curriculum is supplemented by color overheads and posters that present safety information in an interesting and easy-to-read format, as well as a video of safety scenarios. Multiple-choice quizzes also are included for assessment.

Cash incentive

In another effort to spread the word about classroom and lab safety, NIOSH sponsors an annual awards program with the American Vocational Association. The School Lab Safety Award recognizes a project that promotes safety and health in vocational-technical education. The author of the winning entry receives $750 and the author's school receives $250.

The 1998 winner was Larry Walden, a plastics manufacturing instructor at Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville, Okla. Walden published Safety 1st--Plastics Manufacturing Technology Student Safety Handbook, a comprehensive guide covering everything from eye and face protection to first aid procedures to fire drills and tornado warnings. The handbook also includes a safety pledge students must sign before starting the course. Entries for the competition are due to AVA in November. Judges from AVA and NIOSH review the entries and select a winner in January. The winner is invited to receive the award in March at AVA's National Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. (For more information about the School Lab Safety Award, contact AVA at (800) 826-9972.)

NIOSH also is in the process of publishing a series of guidelines for school administrators. Scheduled for release late this year, these guidelines will help administrators keep school facilities in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency requirements. (For more on the EPA, see "Environmentally Correct" on page 31.)

NIOSH encourages teachers and administrators to participate and contribute to its education projects, particularly the safety curricula it still is developing for various vocational-technical subjects. To participate in a project, call NIOSH at (800) 35-NIOSH.

John Diether is a scriptwriter and producer at NIOSH. For more information about the institute, visit
COPYRIGHT 1999 Association for Career and Technical Education
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:occupational safety
Author:Diether, John W.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Previous Article:Tools for Exploring Careers.

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