December 7, 2022
Paula Rossa is passionate about educating future young workers about health and safety on the job. She has been involved in health and safety for 25 years and is currently working as a Career and Technical Education Specialist at the South Kitsap School District (SKSD).
Bringing safety from industry to the classroom
Rossa’s safety career began in the geoduck diving industry. She wrote safety plans related to aquaculture, seafood processing plants, and wholesale and commercial seafood sales both locally and internationally. When she started working for the school district 17 years ago, she worked on regulatory compliance, emergency management, and safety training for staff and students.
Between 2016 and 2018, Rossa completed one of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) Pacific Northwest OSHA Certificate Programs and became a General Industry OSHA Outreach Trainer.
With this new expertise, Rossa’s safety training role recently grew. She now is teaching safety in many of the district’s career and technical education courses, ranging from Automotive to Athletic Medicine.
Rossa has also tapped into the Young Worker Curriculum developed through a collaboration between the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, Washington State Labor & Industries Safety and Health Investment Program (L&I SHIP) and the NWCOHS.
She used the basic curriculum for teenage workers, customized it with some components of her OSHA 10 curriculum for adults. OSHA 10 is an OSHA authorized training program for entry-level workers that covers workplace hazards, employee rights, improving safety culture and other health and safety issues. Participants receive a card that proves that they received 10 hours of training on critical workplace safety topics.
Rossa has successfully delivered the OSHA 10 course to two cohorts of high school students who work in variety of after school jobs, including as parking lot attendants, restaurant, kitchen and grocery workers, as well as on fishing boats and in construction. With their OHSA 10 cards, her students recognize they are now agents of change for health and safety – bravely pointing out safety hazards to their supervisors and their teachers and helping to correct unsafe situations.
“It is wonderful to hear from our practitioners in the community about their successes,” reflects Nancy Simcox, Director of the DEOHS and NWCOHS Continuing Education and Outreach Programs, “Paula has already provided 67 students with their OSHA 10 cards.”
Teaching new curriculum
For the final assessment of the Young Workers Curriculum Rossa developed four scenarios for the students to present – Chemicals, Equipment Failure, Slip, Trip, Fall, and Injured Worker. The students divided into groups to act out a skit representing their scenario’s hazard. After each group presented, the other groups provided feedback, asked questions, and identified gaps.
Students wore the appropriate PPE, set up the cones and caution tape, and filled out the forms.
“There were some “light bulb” moments for [the students] seeing various lessons in a real life scenario,” Rossa discusses, “It was so much fun. It was awesome to watch them take ownership and how seriously they all took it!”
Next steps and new directions
NWCOHS Continuing Education Program is currently working on a new project in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Ecology to develop an online course for high school teachers and college professors on health and safety in teaching laboratories. Rossa has generously agreed to assist as one of a dozen or so stakeholders involved. NWCOHS Continuing Education hopes the course will ultimately be available for students at SKSD.
Rossa is excited to continue her work in the school community – to raise awareness of chemical safety and help improve the selection, evaluation and use of chemicals in the laboratory for young workers, staff and teachers. “The curriculum provided by your team was invaluable in raising awareness for our teen workers,” Rossa comments, “Thank you all!”
Look for Continuing Education’s new course in summer 2023. For more information about the Young Worker Curriculum, check it out on our new resource hub.
Learn more information about Continuing Education training opportunities and health & safety curriculum: https://osha.washington.edu/.
Cover photo credit: iStockphoto.com/alvarez