Montana, according to labor statistics, is not the safest place to work.
As part of an effort to reverse those statistic and reduce the costs associated with workplace injuries and fatalities, shop class students in Superior and St. Regis, along with many others around the state, are receiving training via a program sponsored by the state workers’ compensation insurance company.
Last week Montana State Fund trainers presented introductory safety information and provided shop class students with new safety gear, including hardhats, gloves, safety glasses and coveralls.
Superior High School shop class instructor Jeff Schultz’s seventh-grade class listened to a presentation by Montana State Fund safety management consultant Mark Rosenleaf explained the importance of getting out in front in safety related matters.
“We wanted to start a program for younger kids to be aware of safe work practices and the roll they can play in reducing the chances of future workplace mishaps, Rosenleaf said. “Montana is currently 37th ranked among the states and we want to improve that.”
Students at Superior and St. Regis High School listened as Rosenleaf outlined ways they can implement to keep their jobs safe as they enter the work force in the coming years.
In the three years the program has been in existence, more than 4,700 students have participated in the presentations given at more than 40 Montana schools. MSF has also distributed more than $35,000 worth of safety equipment and has also handed out more than $50,000 in scholarship aid to students enrolled in vocational training programs and colleges such as Montana Tech.
“There are approximately 1.5 million teenagers working in America,” Rosenleaf said. “Every year about 70 teenagers are killed in on the job accidents.”
In addition to handing out safety equipment, MSF training sessions include discussions of worker rights concerning a safe environment and the need for workers to speak up and report what they perceive to be unsafe conditions.
“With your rights to work in a safe place come responsibilities on your part to work in a safe manner,” he told the students. “If something doesn’t seem right to you, take a minute and think about it and report potential hazards to your supervisor or instructor.”
St. Regis High wood and welding shop teacher George Cheeseman said he and staff have been working to update and expand shop related activities at St. Regis.
“We are definitely looking to expand learning opportunities when it comes to vocational opportunities,” Cheeseman said. “We are looking to build this program as vocational training expands and safety is a big part of that.”
Superior High’s Schultz said the new facilities offer a good opportunity to get students off to a good start as they pursue future trade related occupations.
“We have a nice facility here with good equipment for learning the basics of several trades,” Schultz said.
Damin Spoon, a freshman at St. Regis, High said he enjoys the time he spends in class. “I love this class”, Spoon said as he worked on a wooden bird house project. “It is fun to do this and work with tools every day.”
The money for equipment and training sessions are made available as part of MSF’s “Growing a Safer Montana” initiative.
By instilling safety knowledge and training at an early age, MSF hopes for a better standing for Montana work-related accidents.