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.
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