Youth @ Work: Talking Safety

Curriculum for teaching high school students about occupational health and safety

What is Youth @ Work: Talking Safety?

Youth @ Work: Talking Safety is a curriculum designed to help teachers, as well as school and community-based job placement staff, give youth the basics of job health and safety, and workplace rights and responsibilities, in an engaging way. This curriculum was designed to teach core health and safety skills and knowledge, covering basic information relevant to any occupation. There are versions designed specifically for health services and culinary arts students in vocational technical education programs. The learning activities in these curricula are included to raise awareness among young people about occupational health and safety and provide them with the basic skills needed to become active participants in creating safe and healthy work environments. You do not have to be an expert in occupational health and safety to introduce the concepts and skills in Youth @ Work: Talking Safety.

Overview of the curriculum

The activities in Youth @ Work: Talking Safety highlight hazards and prevention strategies from a wide variety of workplaces. The materials are very flexible. They can be used as a stand-alone curriculum or incorporated into other safety programs. Teachers who have used this curriculum indicated that the material was an excellent introduction to other safety instruction such as the OSHA 10-hour course or workplace -specific safety instruction.

Youth @ Work: Talking Safety presents essential information and skills through a focus on six topic areas:

Lesson 1: Young Worker Injuries, assesses students' current knowledge of job safety and legal rights. It also introduces students to these issues and emphasizes the impact a job injury can have on a young person's life.

Lesson 2: Finding Hazards, develops an understanding of the common health and safety hazards that teens may face on the job.

Lesson 3: Finding Ways to Make the Job Safer, explains measures that can reduce or eliminate hazards on the job. It also shows students how to get more information about specific hazards they may face and how to control them.

Lesson 4: Emergencies at Work, introduces students to the various types of emergencies that may occur in a workplace, and how the employer and workers should respond to them.

Lesson 5: Know Your Rights, focuses on the legal rights all workers have under health and safety laws, the special rights young workers have under child labor laws, and the government agencies and other resources that can help.

Lesson 6: Taking Action, helps develop skills in speaking up effectively if a problem arises at work.

What is included?

Lesson plans, Powerpoint slides and overheads, and student handouts are provided for all six lessons. The 10-minute video presented in Lesson 1 is available online and can be downloaded to your computer. The appendix includes an optional handout which gives more information about hazards in typical teen jobs, a list of resources, and a Certificate of Completion which may be photocopied.

Each lesson begins with an introductory discussion, followed by two or three participatory learning activities for teaching the concepts of that lesson. At least one of the learning activities in each lesson is very basic, with minimal or no reading required, and is designed to meet the needs of all students. Several of these activities have been developed for, and pilot tested with, students who have cognitive and learning disabilities.

This entire course can be taught in three to five hours, depending upon whether you teach one activity, or all activities, from each lesson. It can also easily be broken-up and taught in class periods. If you have limited time to devote to this topic, consult the section at the end of each lesson called "Tips for a Shorter Lesson".

Why teach students about occupational health and safety?

Approximately 80% of teenagers have had a job by the time they graduate from high school. While work has many benefits, it also has risks: nearly 200,000 teens are injured on-the-job every year. With appropriate knowledge and skills, teens can play a role in making their workplaces safer - now and as they move into adulthood.

Occupational health and safety instruction is required under the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.

How can I obtain a copy of Youth @ Work: Talking Safety?

State-specific curricula were developed by NIOSH in order to accommodate varying laws and agency names. You can download any of them for free here. For questions related to the NIOSH curriculum, send an email to

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has developed the following additional curricula for vocational technical school use along with supplements for the Massachusetts version of Youth @ Work:Talking Safety:

  • Food Services Safety Edition
  • Health Services Safety Edition
  • Sexual Harassment Supplementary Lesson
  • Summer Jobs Supplementary Scenarios (includes teen workplace injury scenarios specific to day care, day camp, and grounds maintenance job settings.)

Industry-specific versions of Youth @ Work: Talking Safety

Summer jobs supplementary scenarios

The following include teen workplace injury scenarios specific to day care, day camp, and grounds maintenance job settings.

Youth @ Work: Talking Safety Trainings

Staff from the Teens @ Work Project are available to teach Youth @ Work: Talking Safety to teens in any setting. They also provide "train the trainer" sessions to give educators an overview and tips for teaching the curriculum.

If you are interested in training, please email or call the Teens @ Work Project at (617) 624-5632 or