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Sometimes a visual is the best way to get a conversation going. Last week, room 437 at the State House was literally filled with conversation starters—posters designed by teens to spread the word on teen workplace safety. They were on display as part of an awards ceremony to recognize finalists in the Massachusetts “Safe Jobs for Youth” Poster Contest.

Here’s the first place winner of the 2014 Teen Worker Safety Poster Contest, designed by Liz Otero of Worcester

It was a true feel-good event focused on a single message: “Speak Up for Youth.” This annual contest aims to raise awareness among all about the importance of providing safe, healthy jobs for our teens. The event was attended by finalists and their families, state agencies, community partners and legislators, and was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Youth Employment & Safety Team (YES Team), including DPH and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH),

The MassCOSH Teens Lead @ Work Peer Leaders kicked off the event. Gesturing to the 12 finalist posters displayed around the room, they encouraged the crowd to look at the amazing artwork. Over 150 teens from across the state, ages 14 to 19, submitted creative posters with powerful messages. And 38 teens around the state served as judges.

The winning poster, by 16-year-old Liz Otero of Worcester, encourages everyone to speak up for teen workers. “As a student in a technical high school, safety is our number one priority,” shared Ms. Otero about the inspiration for her poster. Her work earned her the $500 cash prize, and her design will air on MBTA subways and buses from May through August, and on Worcester Regional Transit Authority buses throughout May, helping to spread the message far and wide.

Other finalist poster messages included, “Safety hazards are everywhere. Speak now.” “Job safety…YES. Teen injuries…NO.” and “Workplace accidents are preventable.” All designs are posted online.

Keynote speakers added further perspective to the workplace safety discussion.

Rachel Kaprielian, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, stressed the gravity of the issue. “Every seven minutes, somewhere in the United States, a teenager is injured seriously enough on the job to go to a hospital emergency room…. And we are working hard to make sure that teens are doing appropriate work, and are well-trained, well supervised, and confident to speak up.”

On the important role that others play in preparing teens for work, Nancy Snyder, President and CEO of Commonwealth Corporation, proudly shared how her organization ensured the training of more than 5,000 Massachusetts teens and young adults in 31 cities on workplace health and safety, prior to their summer job placements last year.

1st place winner Liz Otero is joined by runners-up Nicholas Horvath and Evelyne Lourie

1st place winner Liz Otero is joined by runners-up Nicholas Horvath and Evelyne Lourie

Now that the poster contest has gotten the conversation on Teen Worker Safety started, let’s keep it going. Check out the finalists from this year’s contest, and learn more about what DPH is doing to help promote young worker safety.

Written By:


Health Communications Specialist in the Occupational Health and Safety Program.

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