Injured Young Workers Speakers Program

Speaker: Matt Pomerinke

Photograph of Matt Pomerinke with his prosthetic arm

Matt Pomerinke of Longview, Wash., was just 21 and working at a paper mill when his arm was caught in an unguarded conveyer drive chain and ultimately amputated just below the elbow. Now, as part of L&I's Injured Young Workers Speakers Program, he tells his story and talks about safety awareness with young people ages 16 to 24 in schools and workplaces.

You can read about Matt's story and the Injured Young Workers Speakers Program in this feature article from Longview's The Daily News.

If you'd like to know more about the program or how you can schedule a speaker for your school, large business or business or civic club meeting, see below, or contact Xenofon Moniodis (xenofon.moniodis@Lni.wa.gov), L&I public affairs, 360-902-6458.


Teen Safety Speakers Banner
*Warning: Video includes graphic reenactment of workplace injuries

Teen-safety speakers: a powerful experience for high school students

Statistics show that young workers are more likely to be injured on the job than adults, especially when they are new to the world of work. Despite this fact, parents and young workers tend to assume that “working” is safe. Even jobs in restaurants and retail operations have potentially serious hazards, such as burns and falls.

To raise awareness among teens that safety is never a given, the Department of Labor & Industries runs a popular “Injured Young Workers Speakers Program.” The program brings speakers who were severely injured on the job as young workers to high schools around the state. A compelling video (click above) precedes each presentation to students, showing graphic reenactments of four actual workplace accidents involving teens.

Since it began in June 2008, nearly 3,000 students in all corners of the state have heard the presentations and have a new appreciation about workplace safety. In 2008, presentations were made in five schools; in 2009, at 24 schools; in 2010, 35 schools; 40 schools in 2011 and 2012; and the goal is to reach 50 schools in 2013. In addition to high schools, presentations have been made at technical colleges, Job Corps schools and skills centers.

A student video contest has been a companion element: http://dmc.newmarketskills.com/~laborandindustries

Is the program successful?
Before-and-after questionnaires and evaluations completed by students and staff at each event showed a significant boost in work-hazard awareness after the presentations. Completed questionnaires from 2009 – 2011 typically show that 70% of the teens said their awareness of safety issues was raised "significantly" as a result of the presentation.

What teachers and students are saying

Photo of Tony Poplin "Over the last few years, several hundred students and their instructors at Puget Sound Skills Center here in Burien have benefitted from L&I's Injured Young Workers Speakers' program. L&I's speakers have been very effective in sharing their powerful stories of life-changing disabilities that resulted from injuries they suffered as young workers. I look forward to continuing this partnership and am grateful that our state is proactive in its efforts to reduce workplace injuries for young workers in such a meaningful way."

Tony Poplin
Culinary Arts Instructor
The Class Act Restaurant
Puget Sound Skills Center, Burien

Photo of Matt Gordon"As Career and Technology Instructors, we talk to students about safety and how to prepare for the work environment a great deal. The students listen and then answer questions correctly, but you wonder if the message will carry over to the workplace. L&I's program brings the message home to the real world. Students realize that "not only can accidents happen, but they do happenand the impact can be forever."

Matt Gordon
Construction Trades Instructor
New Market Skills Center, Tumwater

Photo of Micah Arneberg"The presentation was fantastic. Students were engaged and focused. They saw the reality of what can happen on the job and how important it is to be safe. It becomes more real to a young person when they can see and speak with an injured person rather than just reading about it. I would encourage Labor & Industries to continue this wonderful program."

Micah Arneberg
Business Teacher
Work Site Learning Coordinator
Mt. Tahoma High School, Tacoma

Students’ comments:

  • “I learned to make sure you ask your superior to fix a problem other than figure it out yourself.”
  • “I learned that anyone can get hurt on the job.”
  • “I learned that you can refuse to perform a task if you don’t feel comfortable.”
  • “I learned to always get proper training for a job or equipment before doing that job or work that equipment.”
  • “I learned to be safe.”
Map of speakers program presentationsSchool presentations have been made
throughout the state.

Contact information:

Want to know more about the program or how you can schedule a speaker for your school, large business or business or civic club meeting? Contact Xenofon Moniodis, L&I public affairs, 360-902-6458.

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