West Virginia University School of Public Health researcher has played a key role in an effort to increase awareness and influence policy makers about workplace injuries among U.S. and Canadian youth.MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A
Kimberly Rauscher, Sc.D., an assistant professor in the WVU Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, co-edited the report “Health and Safety of Young Workers: Proceedings of a U.S. and Canadian Series of Symposia” with Carol Runyan, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of epidemiology and director of the Pediatric Injury Prevention, Education and Research Program at the Colorado School of Public Health, John Lewko, Ph.D., of Laurentian University, and Dawn Castillo, M.P.H., of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
The report is a 226-page compendium of research presented at a series of four symposia in which scholars, practitioners and business representatives from the U.S. and Canada came together to share their knowledge and perspectives on youth employment and work safety. It includes research from the fields of business, psychology, public health, sociology and youth development and identifies future research and policy needs in the area of young worker safety.
The report is the first significant collection of information on this topic since the 1998 report “Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States” was published by the Institute of Medicine. The new publication is available from NIOSH at www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2013-144.
The symposia project -- led by Dr. Runyan while she was the director of the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. – was funded by NIOSH and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. The goal of the project was to stimulate discussion among scholars and practitioners involved in young worker safety either through research, practice or policy, who do not typically talk with one another, Dr. Rauscher said.
“It was important to get a lot of diverse information assembled from a lot of different disciplines with different perspectives about the same issue,” Runyan said. “It was a bunch of people thinking and talking together on one issue, getting everybody out of their silos.”
According to Runyan, one of the most critical research needs identified by the discussions was evaluation of workplace safety and health training for young workers and evaluating and improving governmental regulations in those areas.
“A person who supervises a young worker often isn’t in an identical role as one who supervises a 40-year-old,” she said. “It’s the same with teaching – you wouldn’t teach middle school students the same way you teach graduate students. You have to adapt to their developmental needs.”
Rauscher played a central role in developing and organizing the symposia and was co-author of the report’s introduction and one of the included white papers titled “Prevalence of Working Conditions Associated with Adolescent Occupational Injury in the U.S.: a Review of Literature.”
“It is very gratifying to have been a part of this important project and to know that we have produced a document that may serve as a blueprint for future research and policy on the issue of young worker safety,” she said.
Rauscher’s previous research includes investigations of child labor violations in the retail and service industries, fatalities involving child labor and safety violations, adolescent workplace violence, social disparities in adolescent occupational injuries, and adolescent “occupational health literacy” and its role in mediating the relationship between socioeconomic status and occupational injury risk. Her latest project involves identifying barriers and facilitators to adopting a young worker health and safety curriculum among high school teachers.