The AIHA worked with Texas State House Representative Dr. Greg Bonnen (R-24), who introduced House Bill 2010, along with State Senator Larry Taylor (R-11), who chairs the Senate Education Committee. The bill, which was signed into law on June 9, 2017 by Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R). It encourages school districts and educators to occupational safety training information in appropriate courses for students in Grades 7-12.
AIHA wants other states to follow Texas' lead
"This new law represents both a challenge and opportunity for Texas and the Nation," said AIHA's immediate Past-President Steven E. Lacey, PhD, CIH, CSP, who testified before Texas State House and Senate committees in support of this bill. "The challenge is to now work with schools and school districts to implement the law - and for other States to enact similar legislation. The opportunity is for AIHA's members to make real progress towards improving teen workplace health and safety by working with policymakers - just like all six of our Texas Local Sections did to help move this bill into law," Dr. Lacey continued.
AIHA has been working on improving teen workplace safety for some time, having partnered with experts at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to develop the Safety Matters program, which raises awareness among teens about workplace health and safety, and provides basic skills that contribute to a safe work environment. The program is 100% free, voluntary, with no special training required to deliver it.
Through Safety Matters students are exposed to in-demand professions, such as industrial hygiene, but more importantly, they are better prepared for the potential hazards of their future workplaces. In his testimony before the TX House and Senate, Dr. Lacey was directly asked to address an issue that all schools face: that of time. He stated that rather than "take away from other curriculum content... [Safety Matters and similar programs serve as] a link between STEM education and growing public awareness of workplace injury and illness prevention. Protecting lives and livelihoods is not only the right thing to do, it's an educated and healthy workforce that drives the economy."
Teens twice as likely to be injured
Nearly 80% of teens are currently in the workforce. Research shows that these teens are twice as likely to be injured at work compared to adults. As a result, nearly 60,000 teens end up in the emergency room annually from workplace injuries.
"We are thrilled with this victory in Texas, but civic engagement does not end with the passage of a law. The work towards ending teen injuries and fatalities in the workplace has really just begun," stated Dr. Lacey. "Now we must ensure that this law is implemented. Workplace health and safety professionals in Texas, in collaboration with AIHA, must now turn this initial effort into action."
AIHA strives to take its research and apply it to help both individuals and society as a whole because it is committed to growing and protecting the next generation of professionals. To learn more about getting involved visit AIHA's Government Relations site or contact Mark Ames at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in 1939, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) is the premier association of occupational and environmental health and safety professionals. AIHA's 8,500 members play a crucial role on the front line of worker health and safety every day. Members represent a cross-section of industry, private business, labor, government and academia. More information is available at www.aiha.org.