School students need better health and safety education

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Occupational health and safety experts at the University of Adelaide have called for a standardised approach to introductory safety education in the State's secondary schools, to better prepare students for the workplace.

Researchers in the University's School of Population Health and the School of Psychology surveyed 103 public and private secondary schools in South Australia.

The results of the study, now published online in the journal Safety Science, show that although school management is generally supportive, teachers responsible for safety education use varying approaches and often lack confidence in the topic.

"This research highlights a need for a standard, targeted program for training teachers in this area, and an evidence-based approach to introductory safety education," says the lead author, Associate Professor Dino Pisaniello, Head of the Discipline of Public Health at the University of Adelaide.

"A number of key issues have come out of this study. For example, the content and delivery of safety education should be tailored to young workers, taking into account factors such as physical and psychosocial characteristics and, importantly, the situations in which young people are likely to work.

"We also believe training activities in schools and industry should be complementary, in order to capitalise on the strengths of both. Such a program will better prepare young people for being safe and healthy in the workplace.

"Young people are more likely to be injured at work and are often unfamiliar with workplace hazards, safety procedures, and their rights regarding working conditions. By improving education about health and safety at an early age, we can more effectively tackle the young worker injury problem," he says.

Associate Professor Pisaniello says a standardised approach will have significant benefits for society, industry and business in the long term. "This is especially true for small businesses, which constitute the majority of employers in Australia," he says.

The research, funded by SafeWork SA, is linked to the South Australian Government's new Youth Work Health and Safety Strategy.

The University of Adelaide is a past award winner for the Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System in South Australia, and holds a Superior safety rating for WorkCover self-insurance.


Contact Details

Professor Dino Pisaniello
Adelaide Exposure Science and Health, School of Public Health
The University of Adelaide
Mobile: 0417 876 077

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762