Preparing Teens to Stay Safe and Healthy on the Job: a Multilevel Evaluation of the Talking Safety Curriculum for Middle Schools and High Schools


US adolescents experience a higher rate of largely preventable job-related injuries compared with adults. Safety education is considered critical to the prevention of these incidents. This study evaluates the effectiveness of a foundational curriculum from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Talking Safety, to change adolescents’ workplace safety and health knowledge, attitude, subjective norm, self-efficacy, and behavioral intention to engage in workplace safety actions. The study also examines the impact of teacher fidelity of curriculum implementation on student outcomes. A multilevel evaluation, based on a modified theory of planned behavior, was conducted in 2016 with 1748 eighth-graders in Miami-Dade, Florida. Post-intervention, students had statistically significant increases (p < .05) in mean scores across outcomes: workplace safety knowledge (34%), attitude (5%), subjective norm (7%), self-efficacy (7%), and behavioral intention (7%). Consistent with theory, gains in attitude (b = 0.25, p < .001), subjective norm (b = 0.07, p < .01), and self-efficacy (b = 0.55, p < .001) were associated with gains in behavioral intention. Higher levels of implementation fidelity were associated with significant gains across outcome measures: knowledge (b = 0.60, p < .001), attitude (b = 0.08, p < .01), subjective norm (b = 0.04, p < .001), self-efficacy (b = 0.07, p < .01) and behavioral intention (b = 0.07, p < .01). Findings demonstrate the effectiveness of Talking Safety, delivered with fidelity, at positively changing measured outcomes, and provide support for using this curriculum as an essential component of any school-based, injury prevention program for young workers.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    The child labor provisions of the 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibit the employment of minors in jobs and under conditions harmful to their health or well-being. These provisions restrict work hours for youth under age 16 and define hazardous occupations that the Secretary of Labor has determined to be too dangerous for minors under age 18 to perform. Certain businesses are exempt from the FLSA, and varying standards apply to agricultural and nonagricultural industries (Department of Labor, Wage, and Hour Division 2016).


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We thank the Miami-Dade County Public School System for facilitating this research, especially Mr. Cristian Carranza, Administrative Director, Division of Academics (STEAM); Dr. Ava D. Rosales, Executive Director, Department of Mathematics and Science; Mr. Dane Jaber, Instructional Supervisor, Department of Mathematics and Science; and the School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida. For assistance with teacher training, we thank Robin Dewey, LOHP, University of California, Berkeley. For reviews of and thoughtful feedback on this manuscript, we thank Dr. Lehua Choy and Dr. Charlene Baker, University of Hawai‘i.

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Correspondence to Rebecca J. Guerin.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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The NIOSH Institutional Review Board (IRB) waived the documentation of informed consent because the project occurred within a regularly established educational setting, used a publically available curriculum adopted by the school district as part of established and ongoing classroom studies, presented no risk of harm to participants, and involved no procedures for which written consent is normally required outside of the research context.


The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This manuscript’s data will not be deposited.

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Guerin, R.J., Okun, A.H., Barile, J.P. et al. Preparing Teens to Stay Safe and Healthy on the Job: a Multilevel Evaluation of the Talking Safety Curriculum for Middle Schools and High Schools. Prev Sci 20, 510–520 (2019).

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  • Young worker
  • Occupational safety and health
  • Injury prevention
  • Middle school
  • Theory of planned behavior
  • Fidelity of implementation
  • Multilevel modeling