Challenging Occupational Health and Safety Education in Schools

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Occupational health and safety is a serious concern for Australian young people. Several research studies confirm that young people are at greater risk of work-related injuries and illnesses than older workers. In Australia, young people aged 15 to 19 years are the leading age cohort with the highest rate of workers injured. In response to this complex issue, in 2003 the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) developed a health and safety program, safe@work, for secondary school students undertaking work experience. All work experience students (usually during year 10) must satisfactorily complete DEECD’s safe@work program before going out on work experience.

In our qualitative study we found that there is a mismatch between the compulsory age when OHS is introduced in schools and the age when students begin to work part time. As we discovered through the interviews, many students have already been working for a year or more prior to completing their OHS training at school. In this paper we will use the perceptions of the young people interviewed to explore when it is necessary to start OHS education at school. We will also look at the relevance and accessibility of the current teaching in regard to OHS in schools to determine what methods allowed the greatest retention of OHS teaching. Our participants emphasised that a variety of methods were useful when teaching OHS at school and TAFE. From the young peoples perceptions’ we will also discuss how best to integrate OHS teaching into the curriculum through the use of the young peoples’ part time work experiences and the development of hands on resources including role plays scenarios, coping skills and discussion.


Keywords: Occupational Health and Safety, Learning about OHS in School, Young People, Part Time Work
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Challenging Occupational Health and Safety Education in Schools


Helen Stokes

Research Fellow, Australian Youth Research Centre, University of Melbourne
University of Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Helen Stokes has been a research fellow and lecturer at the Australian Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne since 1996. Over the last 12 years she has conducted and managed research projects and evaluations, internationally, nationally and locally. These have included a range of projects based in schools and in community organizations. Central to this work has been research about young people and identity, including part time work and vocational eduaction as sites for identity development.

Hernan Cuervo

Research Fellow, Australian Youth Research Centre, Univerity of Melbourne
Melbourne, Vctoria, Australia

Hernan Cuervo is currently working on a number of research projects at the Australian Youth Research Centre at the University of Melbourne including the the Longitudinal Life patterns project and young people experiences of part time work and OHS. He is currently completing a Phd on rural students and issues of social justice

Ref: L09P0379