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Safe Work for Young People Through Learning and Instruction (SAFU-Learning) - Safety, Learning and Practice



We know that the first months of work is the most dangerous, especially for young people. In the existing prevention strategies targeted at young people’s work injuries the main focus are on training and safety instruction. However, the evidence in the field shows that safety training and instruction of young and new employees in it-self have little or no effect on the number of injuries. Part of the explanation for the lack of effect may lie in the fact, that existing learning programs do not take into account the everyday practice at the workplace where the safety learning is supposed to take place.


The overall objective of the project is to investigate how the training and instruction of youth in safety at work should be designed, if this should make a contribution to the reduction of the risk of young people at work.

Theory / Method

The project contains a qualitative study of how young people in different forms of work life situations (skilled workers, apprentices, school drop outs, sabbatical year workers, students, temporary workers) are trained and instructed in safety during their first three month at work, and further how these instructions relate to risks at the work place and the hazards they encounter. It will be conducted as a qualitative case study and seeks to illuminate how instruction works in practice and how they develop learning trajectories in relation to safety learning. Learning is thus understood as related to the actual practice of the work in question. The study is undertaken within three different industries; the retail industry, the social- and health sector, and metal working industry.
Within the scope of the project two forms of learning trajectories will be explored and developed, namely an ‘experienced-to-young’ trajectory of learning and a ‘young-to-young’ trajectory. A learning trajectory is understood as consisting of both formal and informal forms of learning that is variably connected to the actual work practice. The experienced-to-young concept is relevant in the metal working industry and in social and health work, where young people usually work alongside older and more experienced workers. The young-to-young concept will be used in the retail industry, where evidence shows that young people often work without older and more experienced staff present, and introduction is therefore based on young workers being supervised by other young workers.

On this basis, we develop new learning trajectories for the instruction and training of young people in safety. These new learning processes will be based on a broad concept of learning that takes into account the everyday practice(s) that young people are working in.

Contribution to practice

The project will contribute with new knowledge about what is important for young people's learning of safety in the first three months of their work within the retail industry, metal industry and in health care sector. The development of new learning trajectoreis for safety learning will involve both cognitive and physical learning approaches together with the organizational practices. This is done for two types of learning situations, on the one hand the youth-to-youth learning situation and on the other hand experienced-to-peer learning, covering six categories of young people. These trajectories and accompanying guidelines will take into account the shortcomings that are in existing approaches, by using the broad concept of learning which is used in the project.

The aim is to improve the safety of young people in their work, especially the first few months of their new workplace. Overall, the project will provide a new insight into safety learning and instruction of young people in working life, including what is needed if this learning and instruction should work for various categories of young people. The developed learning concepts could be used as a template for approaches to improve young people's knowledge and safety in the work. A final implementation and evaluation of learning concepts and the effects on young people's safety, for example in terms of reduced risks in the work, will be considered for a future study.


The project will develop an empirically based approach to safety learning, that is relevant to the issue of safety introduction among young workers. An overview of different forms of introductions to safety and the way that these are conceived by young workers will be provided. The results will be presented as different forms of learning trajectories in relation to safety relevant to young workers in the three different work contexts.


  • Johnny Dyreborg, Senior researcher, The National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen (project leader)
  • Mette Lykke Nielsen, Associate professor, Centre for Youth Research at Aalborg University
  • Regine Grytnes, Post.doc., Dept. of Occupational Medicine, Herning, University Research Clinic
  • Kent Nielsen, Senior researcher, Dept. of Occupational Medicine, Herning, University Research Clinic
  • Silvia Gherardi, Professor, Research Unit on Communication, Organizational Learning and Aesthetics (RUCULA), Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Trento.
  • Robin Baker, Director, Research to Practice, Center for Occupational Safety and Health, University of California at Berkeley.

Contact: Johnny Dyreborg

National Research Centre for the Working Environment | Lersø Parkallé 105 | DK-2100 Copenhagen O | Denmark |

Phone +45 3916 5200 | fax +45 3916 5201 | e-mail: | CVR: 15413700 | EAN: 5798000399518

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