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June 26, 2014
Teen worker training addresses violence, sexual assault

Large numbers of teens face violence and sexual assault on the job. An OSHA-funded peer education program seeks to give them the tools and understanding to reduce the risk.

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Teens Lead @ Work is a training initiative sponsored by nonprofit and academic groups in Massachusetts, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Funded in part by OSHA, the program is expected to reach hundreds of young workers this summer. OSHA administrator David Michaels, PhD, calls it “a unique opportunity to reach out to young workers with life-saving information.”

While it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment, Michaels noted, “Educating young workers to identify hazardous situations can give them the confidence they need to speak up at work and ask for the training and protections they need to be safe.” The essence of the peer training is (1) be mindful, (2) be watchful, and (3) beware.

Troubling examples point to the risks for teens at work

Teens Lead @ Work says recent workplace fatalities underscore the hazards teens face:

  • Joseph Morante, 19, was fatally shot in 2013 while working at a cell phone store in Boston.
  • Jamil Bader, 18, was shot and killed in 2012 during a robbery at his family’s New Jersey delicatessen.
  • Christine LoBrutto, 18, was fatally shot in 2012 by a coworker at a grocery store in New Jersey.

Sexual violence is another concern. A recent study by the Shuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University estimates that 200,000 U.S. young workers are victims of sexual assault on the job each year.

A recent study of teen retail workers by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (a sponsor of Teens Lead @ Work) found that 74 percent had never received training in workplace violence or health and safety. And nearly a third of young people sometimes worked without supervision.

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