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Assessment of occupational health and safety hazard exposures among working college students

Authors

  • Jo Anne G. Balanay PhD, CIH,

    1. Environmental Health Sciences Program, Department of Health Education and Promotion, College of Health and Human Performance, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
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  • Adepeju Adesina BS,

    1. Environmental Health Sciences Program, Department of Health Education and Promotion, College of Health and Human Performance, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
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  • Gregory D. Kearney DrPH, MPH,

    1. Department of Public Health, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
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  • Stephanie L. Richards PhD

    1. Environmental Health Sciences Program, Department of Health Education and Promotion, College of Health and Human Performance, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina
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  • The authors do not have any conflict of interest related to this manuscript.

Correspondence to: Jo Anne G. Balanay, PhD, CIH, Environmental Health Sciences Program, Department of Health Education and Promotion, College of Health and Human Performance, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. E-mail: balanayj@ecu.edu

Abstract

Background

Adolescents and young adults have higher injury rates than their adult counterparts in similar jobs. This study used the working college student population to assess health and safety hazards in the workplace, characterize related occupational diseases and injuries, and describe worker health/safety activities provided by employers.

Methods

College students (≥17 years old) were assessed via online surveys about work history, workplace exposure to hazards, occupational diseases/injuries, and workplace health/safety activities.

Results

Approximately half (51%) of participants (n = 1,147) were currently employed at the time of the survey or had been employed while enrolled in college. Restaurants (other than fast food) were the most frequently reported work setting. The most reported workplace hazards included noise exposure and contact with hot liquids/surfaces. Twenty percent of working students experienced injury at work; some injuries were severe enough to limit students' normal activities for >3 days (30%) or require medical attention (44%). Men had significantly higher prevalence of injuries (P = 0.05) and near-misses (P < 0.01) at work than women. Injury occurrence was associated with near-misses (AOR = 5.08, P < 0.01) and co-worker injuries (AOR = 3.19, P < 0.01) after gender and age adjustments. Most (77%) received worker safety training and half were given personal protective equipment (PPE) by their employers.

Conclusions

Risk reduction from workplace injuries and illnesses among working college students may be achieved by implementing occupational health and safety (OHS) strategies including incorporation of OHS in the college curriculum, promotion of OHS by university/college student health services, and improving awareness of OHS online resources among college students, employers, and educators. Am. J. Ind. Med. 57:114–124, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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