Safe • Skilled • Ready Workforce Program

Burden, Need and Impact

NIOSH strives to maximize its impact in occupational safety and health. The Safe • Skilled • Ready Workforce (SSRW) Program identifies priorities to guide investments, based on the evidence of burden, need and impact. Below are the priority areas for the SSRW Program.

Burden

While work has many benefits for young people, it also has risks. Compared to workers over age 25, younger workers (defined as those ages 15 through 24) are twice as likely to visit an emergency room due to a work-related injury.1 Workers under 18 are considered an especially vulnerable population for experiencing work-related injuries and fatalities.2 Injuries are often the result of the many hazards present in the places youth typically work, such as sharp knives and slippery floors in restaurants. Limited or no prior work experience, long work hours, the fast pace of work, and a lack of adequate supervision and safety training also contribute to high injury rates among young workers.3,4 Research indicates that injuries can have a lifelong impact on young workers’ health and well-being.5 The economic impact of injuries among young workers is also significant. One study estimated work-related injuries for workers ages 15 through 19 accounted for a total annual cost of $5 billion.6

Young Worker Safety and Health
Information and data related to young worker injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

Young Worker Safety and Health: Selected Charts
Charts on Young Worker Employment, Injuries and Illnesses.

Fatality Investigations of Youth Workers
NIOSH and state partners have investigated deaths of youth less than 18 years of age through the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE).

Need

The problem of young worker injuries and fatalities calls for an integrated strategy for protecting youth on the job. This includes environmental change; policies, procedures, and enforcement; and education and training. Evidence suggests that preparing young workers with a foundation of occupational safety and health knowledge and skills may help reduce their high burden of injury;7 however, most of the current initiatives to prepare the emerging workforce do not include essential knowledge, skills, and abilities for safe and healthy work. This is a critical public health challenge. Researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers have called for providing workplace safety and health training in health education or career and technical education classes, to educate youth about child labor laws, workplace safety and health laws, and their responsibilities in the workplace.8

To address this need, NIOSH and its partners have developed a framework of foundational workplace safety and health competencies, the NIOSH 8 Core Competencies, that pertain to: hazard recognition and control; employer responsibilities and worker rights and roles; work-related emergencies; and communication with others when feeling unsafe or threatened.9 The NIOSH Competencies are designed to be general, portable to all jobs and industries, compatible with existing work readiness initiatives, and transferable to other settings where risk-based decisions are made.

Impact

The benefits of teaching foundational, occupational safety and health competencies9 to young people early in life may include increased job knowledge, enhanced competence in dealing with hazards at work, and reduced incidence of job-related injuries and illnesses.10 NIOSH is currently working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to integrate the NIOSH 8 Core Competencies into middle and high schools. The goal is to build a sustainable model that can be transferred to other school districts. Additionally, Oklahoma Senate Bill 262 (April 2015) instituted a requirement for 7th–12th graders to receive workplace safety and health education. All students in ninth grade in the Oklahoma City Public School System (OKCPS) are currently being taught foundational workplace safety and health knowledge and skills through the NIOSH Talking Safety curriculum.

For more information about the impact of the SSRW program, view our Program Impact section.


1 CDC [2010]. Occupational injuries and deaths among younger workers: United States, 1998–2007. MMWR 59(15):449–55.
2 Rauscher KJ, Myers DJ [2016]. Occupational fatalities among young workers in the United States: 2001-2012. Am J Ind Med 59(6):445–52.
3 Breslin CF, Polzer J, MacEachen E, Morrongiello B, Shannon H [2007]. Workplace injury or “part of the job”?: towards a gendered understanding of injuries and complaints among young workers. Soc Sci Med 64(4):782–793.
4 Zierold KM, Anderson HA [2006]. Severe injury and the need for improved safety training among working teens. Am J Health Behav 30(5):525–32.
5 Koehoorn M, Breslin FC, Xu F [2008]. Investigating the longer-term health consequences of work-related injuries among youth. J Adolesc Health 43(5):466–473.
6 Miller TR, Waehrer GM [1998]. Costs of occupational injuries to teenagers, United States. Inj Prev 4(3):211–7.
7 Boini S, Colin R, Grzebyk M [2017]. Effect of occupational safety and health education received during schooling on the incidence of workplace injuries in the first 2 years of occupational life: a prospective study. BMJ Open 7(7):e015100.
8 Runyan CW, Lewko J, Rauscher K [2012]. Setting an agenda for advancing young worker safety in the US and Canada. Public Health Rep 127(3):246–52. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2013-144/
9 Okun AH, Guerin RJ, Schulte PA [2016]. Foundational workplace safety and health competencies for the emerging workforce. J Safety Res 59:43–51 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsr.2016.09.004External
10 Schulte PA, Stephenson CM, Okun AH, Palassis J, Biddle E [2005]. Integrating occupational safety and health information into vocational and technical education and other workforce preparation programs. Am J Pub Health 95(3):404–11. http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2004.047241External

Burden

Contingent workers are defined as those with a job they do not expect to last. Temporary workers, contract workers, and on-demand workers are all types of contingent workers. They represent a substantial (approximately 15%) and growing segment of the U.S. workforce.1 Occupational injury and illness data for contingent workers is sparse due to the limitations of existing surveillance systems. However, a growing number of studies reveal a higher burden of occupational injuries and illnesses among contingent workers compared to non-contingent workers.2-4

Many factors may contribute to the increased risk of occupational injuries and illnesses among contingent workers. Contingent workers may be assigned to more hazardous jobs and tasks and be less likely to object to doing dangerous work or to speak up about safety concerns because of their precarious job status.5 Newly hired workers are more likely to be injured compared to those with longer job tenure,6 and contingent workers are likely to be new hires multiple times a year. Contingent workers may also lack foundational occupational safety and health (OSH) knowledge, skills, and abilities due to insufficient training.7

Need

OSHA and NIOSH issued joint guidance8 that calls for staffing companies to provide general OSH training to workers prior to placement on an assignment. However, to date there have been no published studies regarding the development, implementation, or evaluation of general OSH training programs tailored for contingent workers. Given the growth of the contingent labor force and the disproportionate burden of occupational injuries and illnesses among contingent workers, evidence-based trainings to promote foundational OSH knowledge and skills are needed as soon as possible.

Impact

Evidence-based OSH training programs customized to meet the unique needs of contingent workers may directly benefit workers by reducing their risk of work-related injuries and illnesses. Employers may see benefits in reduced costs, improved productivity, and having an aid to align their practices with the guidance released by OSHA and NIOSH. NIOSH is currently working to teach temporary construction workers the foundations of workplace safety based on an adapted and pilot tested version of the NIOSH Talking Safety curriculum.

For more information about the impact of the SSRW program, view our Program Impact section.


1 Katz LF, Krueger AB [2016]. The rise and nature of alternative work arrangements in the United States, 1995–2015. http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/lkatz/files/katz_krueger_cws_v3.pdf?m=1459369766Cdc-pdfExternalCdc-pdfExternal. Accessed August 1, 2018.
2 Foley M [2017]. Factors underlying observed injury rate differences between temporary workers and permanent peers. Am J Ind Med 60(10):841–851.
3 Smith CK, Silverstein BA, Bonauto DK, Adams D, Fan ZJ [2010]. Temporary workers in Washington state. Am J Ind Med 53(2):135–45.
4 Virtanen M, Kivimäki M, Joensuu M, Virtanen P, Elovainio M, Vahtera J [2005]. Temporary employment and health: A review. Int J Epidemiol 34(3):610–22.
5 Foley M, Ruser J, Shor G, Shuford H, Sygnatur E [2014]. Contingent workers: Workers’ compensation data analysis strategies and limitations. Am J Ind Med 57(7):764–75.
6 Breslin FC, Smith P [2006]. Trial by fire: A multivariate examination of the relation between job tenure and work injuries. Occup Environ Med 63(1):27–32.
7 Cummings KJ, Kreiss K [2008]. Contingent workers and contingent health: Risks of a modern economy. JAMA 299(4):448–50.
8 OSHA/NIOSH [2014]. Recommended practices: Protecting temporary workers. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Instutite for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2014-139, https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3735.pdfCdc-pdfExternalExternal.

Burden

Social constructs such as race, class, and gender; disability status; economic trends such as the significant growth of the temporary workforce; and organizational factors such as business size and safety culture can all contribute to the potentially higher risks of workplace illnesses or injuries. What is not known is how to overcome the barriers to safety for each of these vulnerable groups.

Data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 2005–2009 indicate that the rate of fatal occupational injuries for foreign-born workers of all ages was 4.0 per 100,000, versus 3.7 per 100,000 for all workers. “Foreign-born” refers to persons not born in the U.S. or its territories. The rates for young foreign-born workers were even higher, particularly for the youngest workers (4.8 per 100,000 for those aged 20–24 years and 6.1 for those aged 15–19 years).1

Workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have also been found to suffer higher rates of workplace injury. When considering workers in vocational rehabilitation programs, the rate of workplace injury is more than 60% higher than that of workers as a whole (out of every 100 workers in these settings, 5.5 workers get injured on the job as compared to 3.2 out of 100 workers who get injured on the job in general work settings).2

Need

The workforce in the United States is undergoing dramatic demographic and structural shifts. Racial minorities, foreign-born, and contingent workers are some of the fastest growing groups in the workforce. These workers are also at an increased risk of occupational injuries and illnesses as a result of social and economic structures historically linked to discrimination or exclusion. Some ways social and economic structures can lead to occupational health inequities among groups of vulnerable workers include the overrepresentation of these workers in dangerous occupations,3 differential treatment on the job,4,5 and limiting access to resources that help protect workers on the job.4,6

Workers with IDD are also a vulnerable population with respect to workplace safety and health. The percentage of people with IDD in the U.S. population rose from 11.9% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2016.7 Workers with IDD were more likely to be employed part time and to be concentrated in service occupations (21.3 percent, compared with 17.6 percent).8 Jobs performed in sheltered employment settings by workers with IDD in general can be hazardous. In sheltered employment, common work activities include light manufacturing, recycling, assembly, janitorial tasks, industrial laundries, landscaping services, and warehouse work. Almost all of these activities have higher than average rates of injury.

Impact

The Labor Occupational Health Program, University of California, BerkeleyExternal is using the LOHP/NIOSH Staying Safe at Work curriculum to provide foundational workplace safety and health knowledge and skills to workers with IDD.

For more information about the impact of the SSRW program, view our Program Impact section.



1 Steege AL, Baron SL, Marsh SM, Menendez CC, Myers JR [2014]. Examining occupational health and safety disparities using national data: a cause for continuing concern. Am J Ind Med 57(5):527-538. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajim.22297External
2 Orrenius PM, Zavodny M [2009]. Do immigrants work in riskier jobs?. Demography 46(3): 535-551.
3 Flynn MA, Eggerth DE, Jacobson CJ [2015]. Undocumented status as a social determinant of occupational health: The workers’ perspective. Am J Ind Med 58(11):1127-1137, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajim.22531External
4 Okechukwu CA, Souza K, Davis KD, de Castro AB [2014]. Discrimination, harassment, abuse, and bullying in the workplace: Contribution of workplace injustice to occupational health disparities. Am J Ind Med 57(5):573-586. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ajim.22221External
5 Cunningham TR, Keller B, Guerin R, Flynn M, Salgado C, Hudson D [2018]. Differences in safety training among smaller and larger construction firms with immigrant workers: Evidence of overlapping vulnerabilities. Saf Sci 103:62-69. http:dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2017.11.011
6 Flynn M, Keller B, DeLaney SC [2017]. Promotion of alternative-sized personal protective equipment. J Safety Res 63:43-46, doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2017.08.004. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsr.2017.08.004External
7 Kraus L, Lauer E, Coleman R, Houtenville A [2018]. 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, https://disabilitycompendium.org/sites/default/files/user-uploads/2017_AnnualReport_2017_FINAL.pdfCdc-pdfExternal
8 BLS [2017], The Economics Daily, Workers with a disability more concentrated in service occupations than those with no disability. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2017/workers-with-a-disability-more-concentrated-in-service-occupations-than-those-with-no-disability.htmExternalExternal

Page last reviewed: January 18, 2019