Safe • Skilled • Ready Workforce Program: Description

SSRW - Safe • Skilled • Ready Workforce Program logo

Program Description

Young workers (ages 15–24 years) and contingent workers, defined as those with a job they do not expect to last, are at high risk for workplace injury.1,2 These workers are employed across various industries with concentrations in services, wholesale and retail trade, healthcare, manufacturing, and construction. Among young workers, those under the age of 18 are an especially vulnerable group.3 A key, common contributor to the high burden of injuries and illnesses among young and contingent workers is a lack of essential occupational safety and health (OSH) knowledge and skills due to the absence of or insufficient OSH training.4,5 Employers are responsible for providing job-specific training, but schools, workforce development organizations, and temporary staffing companies have an important role in preparing workers with career readiness knowledge and skills, including OSH competencies, before they enter the labor force.

In 2013, NIOSH launched the Safe • Skilled • Ready Workforce Program to build on two decades of young worker research at NIOSH and advance science for the design, implementation, and evaluation of OSH programs that prepare vulnerable workers for safe and healthy employment. To address the disproportionate injury burden on workers beginning new jobs, the Program seeks to equip young, contingent, and other high-risk workers with essential OSH competencies, the NIOSH 8 Core Competencies, needed to benefit from and contribute to safe, healthy, and productive workplaces.

Safe • Skilled • Ready Workforce


1 CDC [2010]. Occupational injuries and deaths among younger workers: United States, 1998-2007. MMWR 59(15):449-455, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5915a2.htm.
2 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=1459369766external icon.
3 Rauscher KJ, Myers DJ, Miller ME [2016]. Work-related deaths among youth: Understanding the contributions of US child labor violations. Am J Ind Med 59(11):959-968.
4 Zierold KM, Anderson HA [2006]. Severe injury and the need for improved safety training among working teens. Am J Health Behav 30(5):525-532.
5 Cummings KJ, Kreiss K [2008]. Contingent workers and contingent health: Risks of a modern economy. JAMA 299(4):448–50.
6 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 icon.

Page last reviewed: January 18, 2019