Why are occupational health and safety training approaches not effective?

Understanding young worker learning processes using an ergonomic lens
Young workers are frequently injured at work. Education and awareness strategies to prevent injuries among young workers are common but they are often ineffective. These approaches emphasize teaching, rather than learning strategies, and appear to contradict recent competency-based developments in education science. This study aimed to gain insight into the actual safety skills learning process of adolescents in an internship in a high school vocational training program. The results are based on auto and allo-confrontation interviews from an ergonomics intervention study with nine apprentices and five experienced coworkers involved in the training. This technique is suited to obtaining qualitative data on work activities; it consists of interviewing apprentices and co-workers about videotaped work observations to capture the thought processes behind their action. The findings reveal that learning in an actual situation poses challenges because working conditions and also learning conditions are not always optimal. Such conditions prompt apprentices to develop novel strategies to manage unexpected situations. At times, this involved side-stepping a safety rule in order to meet work demands. The use of an ergonomics actual work activity approach allowed the merging of two research topics rarely found together: the socio-ecological paradigm in education and the development of original interventions to prevent occupational injuries among young workers. This intersection of educational theory and injury prevention strategies provides new avenue for improving vocational training programs and developing primary prevention interventions in occupational health and safety programs that target youth.

Source: Laberge, Marie, MacEachen, Ellen, et Calvet, Bénédicte. (2014). Safety Science, 68, 250-257. 

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