In 2004, after a teen worker was killed at work while trying to apprehend a shoplifter, the Massachusetts Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) did a survey and interviews of youth workers to determine the impact of workplace violence among these workers. The findings indicated serious gaps in training for youth workers: 27% has experienced a theft at their work place; 74% never received work place violence or health and safety training; 30% would chase shoplifters; 62% were not aware of any policies regarding robberies; and, 31% sometimes worked without supervision.
In the greater Philadelphia region, The Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPOSH) has tracked since 2008 the deaths of youth workers from both traumatic injuries and from workplace violence, as well as the deaths of all workers from workplace violence. One youth was killed during a robbery while working as a parking attendant at a hospital. Two were shot and killed by a co-worker while stocking shelves at a Pathmark. One was killed while working in a deli. One teenager died from traumatic injuries when she fell off an elevated platform at a Rite Aid while doing inventory.
Adequately trained young workers are less likely to be injured or killed on the job, yet they are not receiving the training.
The Young Worker Violence Prevention Training Program (YWVPTP), a collaboration between MassCOSH, PhilaPOSH, Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP), New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), and Southern California COSH (SoCalCOSH) is providing a 2 or 3 hour workplace violence prevention training to young workers, aged 15-22, from these 5 major metropolitan communities. Adult supervisors of youth workers are also encouraged to attend to support the learning and adoption of WYVPTP strategies. The program is supported with funding from OSHA’s Susan Harwood safety grant program.
Training and Educational Materials
The program utilizes a peer-leadership model with youth, aged 15-18, as Peer Leaders and Trainers. All Peer Leaders complete an intensive 20-hour Train-the-Trainer program to instill knowledge of the training content and important facilitation skills including conflict resolution and behavior management.
YWVPTP created an innovative curriculum, building on existing materials designed specifically for young workers, their adult supervisors and small business employers.
Training content includes an introduction to hazard identification and control; worker rights and responsibilities; strategies for speaking up; and identification, prevention and mitigation for work place violence in common settings in the retail, healthcare and service sector settings. We also adapted adult work place violence materials.