In the period of transition from school to work, under-25s are more vulnerable to occupational accident risks due to them being both young and new to their jobs. In view of this overly high accident rate, prevention for this population has been focused on teaching occupational safety and health (OSH). In France, OSH teaching has been the subject of a partnership between the French Ministry of National Education and the French National Health Insurance Fund for Salaried Workers (CNAM-TS) since 1993. INRS takes part in defining the OSH skills on Consultative Occupational Committees of the Ministry of National Education. However, so far, the impact of such teaching on the occurrence of occupational accidents has not been assessed. The main objective of this study was to determine the effect of OSH teaching received during schooling on the occurrence of occupational accidents in young people entering the working world. The secondary objectives of this study were focused on the potential effects of other items contributing to an OSH environment: “occupational first aider” training received during schooling and conditions of arrival and induction in the company (information on occupational risks, safety training, and job training given by a more senior colleague, etc.).
A prospective cohort study was put in place with apprentices and students from seven education districts, enrolled in the final year of their studies for their vocational diplomas (CAP/BEP), vocational certificates (brevet professionnel), vocational baccalaureates, or higher vocational diplomas (BTS), in production or service specialities (inclusions from 2009 to 2012, and end of monitoring of the last one in 2014).
The inclusion questionnaire, filled in by the participants just before they graduated, questioned them about their schooling paths, and in particular the OSH teaching received. The monitoring or follow-up questionnaire, filled in every six months for two years, questioned them, among other things, about the characteristics of the job, the working conditions, and the conditions of arrival and induction in the company, and about any occurrence of accidents at work.
Of the 755 participants eligible for the study, 90% declared they had received OSH teaching. During the monitoring, the participants declared 1290 jobs (1.7 jobs per participant on average). In 70% of cases, the job corresponded to the initial training. Also during the monitoring, 158 occupational accidents were reported by the participants or identified through the databases of the Occupational Health and Pension Insurance Funds (CARSATs), corresponding to an incidence rate of 0.12 [0.10-0.14] occupational accidents per participant-year. Half as high a risk of occupational accident was observed for participants who stated they had received OSH teaching during their schooling. A lower risk of occupational accident for the participants who had done the “occupational first aider” training was also observed. The conditions of induction on arrival in the company were not statistically associated with the occurrence of occupational accidents.
This longitudinal study made it possible to highlight a lower risk of occupational accident among young people who had received OSH teaching, and among young people who had done “occupational first aider” training. OSH teaching is given widely during studies for occupational qualifications, with an approach that is often broader than merely concentrating on the specific risks of the trade being learnt. Our results emphasise the utility of pursuing and of generalising this approach.
With the aim of providing continuation in OSH education (initial and further training throughout working life) it would be advantageous to pursue the assessment of overall OSH teaching strategies (developing prevention culture, facilitating ties between schools and companies), and the modes of inducting young people, or indeed newly hired people, that are put in place as of arrival in the company.