Matt Pomerinke of Longview, Wash., was just 21 and working at a lumber 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, L&I public affairs, 360-338-5697.

Teen-safety speakers: a powerful experience for students and young workers

Statistics show that young workers are more likely to be injured on the job than adults are, 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, skills centers, colleges and universities around the state. A compelling video precedes each presentation to students, showing graphic reenactments of four actual workplace accidents involving teens.

Since the program began in June 2008, over 60,000 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 reaching about 750 students; the program now averages 32 venues a year, reaching about 7,000 participants annually. In addition to schools, presentations also take place at worksites employing predominately young workers.

Is the program successful?
Before-and-after questionnaires and evaluations completed by students and staff consistently show a significant boost in work-hazard awareness after the presentations. Completed surveys typically show that 77% of the teens said their awareness of safety issues was raised "significantly" as a result of the presentation.

*Warning: Video includes graphic details of Matt describing his workplace injury

What teachers and students are saying

Tony Poplin
Culinary Arts Instructor
Puget Sound Skills Center, Burien

"Over the last few years, several hundred of our students and their instructors 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 our state is proactive in its efforts to reduce workplace injuries for young workers in such a meaningful way."

Adam Shell
Construction Trades Instructor
New Market Skills Center, Tumwater

"As Career and Technology Instructors, one of our goals is to bring awareness of proper safety procedure and worker's rights in order to prepare our students for success in the workplace. Our program is built on a foundational belief that giving real world experiences to the students is our best chance at them retaining and mastering information. L&I's Speakers Program does an exceptional job at putting real lives and faces to the consequences of work place accidents. Students realize that "not only can accidents happen, but they do happen--and the impact can be life changing."

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.”

Injured Speakers Series Map School 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, 360-338-5697.