Understanding Young People’s Experience in the Workplace

ImageWork related injuries are a serious health risk for young workers (18 to 29 years) living in urban areas. Each year there are over 250,000 documented cases of work-related injury; however, many injuries are not reported. We think that the number is closer to 700,000 annually. A young worker dies every five days in the U.S. as a result of workplace conditions. Many young people do not receive adequate safety or job training, leaving them vulnerable to occupational health risks. Low-income youth are at a particularly high risk for work-related injuries due to the work environments they tend to work in. In order to survive, many low-income youth put themselves in high risk work environments that do not have safety nets in place to protect them against harm or injury.

Recently, there was a fire in Arizona and 19 firefighters died and 14 of them were 22 years old. A few weeks ago in Oakland, two fast food workers were shot at work and killed.  Last year, a 26 year old working at a wildlife preserve was mauled to death by a lion. This is a serious problem. What most young people don’t know is that not all work related injuries look this extreme. Many young people go home every night with back pain, burns, cuts, or worse that they accept as being a part of the job; 15 to 45% of these injuries result in chronic and even debilitating conditions. These injuries can be prevented if young people are properly educated about health and safety standards.

Dr. Karen Hill from GLIDE Health Services explains that one of the biggest problems is that “many young people don’t know what injury is.” Many of the young people that have walked into her office didn’t realize that the “dry, cracked skin from loading the cooler”, the “bone spur that flew in my eye while cleaning the operating room”, and “getting fired from my barista job because my boss found out that I broke up with my abusive boyfriend” are all workplace hazards that can and should be prevented. The first step in improving the work environment for young people is understanding the conditions that they are currently experiencing.

GLIDE Health Services is conducting a study to investigate injury and illness in the low income, marginally housed, 18 to 29 year old population. Primary care facilities may be a place to educate young people regarding workplace safety. But before we can try to solve the problem, we need to know more about it. We want to learn more about your work experiences and early life experiences. Please come tell us your story!

What do I get for participating?

  • Choice of $10 gift card to Subway, Starbucks, or a movie ticket
  • The chance to help improve work and health conditions for all young people

 How do I participate?

How does it work?

  • Meet with Karen Hill and complete two short surveys about your work experiences and your early childhood experiences
  • The interview takes 40 minutes
  • The study is voluntary and you can leave at any time

 Who can participate?

  • 18-29 years old
  • Registered with GLIDE Health Services (can register the same day you come in for the study)
  • Current or past paid work or volunteer experience

Erica Rodriguez is an Emerging Leader intern from Chicago, IL. She is studying Human Development and Psychological Services at Northwestern University, and she hopes to pursue a career changing minds and changing lives. GLIDE has been an inspirational experience in her believing that this kind of change is possible