Latta DECA Makes Worldwide Impact & Sheds Light On What It Really Means to BE EPIC!

On April 1, 2015, Governor Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 262, the nation’s first ever Mainstreaming OSH into Education Law. The ceremonial signing enabled Latta DECA to join national and state leaders at the State Capitol to witness the Governor sign a historic accomplishment.

Senate Bill 262 is a Latta DECA student-driven initiative that made an impact across the United States and around the globe. This new law will affect tens of thousands of students who will now receive workplace safety training prior to entering their first jobs. Many lives will now be saved thanks to this DECA effort.

It’s not every day that an opportunity comes around to make a worldwide difference, but when students are involved in DECA, the chance to make a lasting impact on your community happens more than you might  think!

Taking it a step further, it’s how DECA students take what they learn from the classroom, at local and statewide competitions, and at DECA’s annual international conference, to affect change in the business world and in their communities. The important key to note is how these DECA students put that knowledge into practice. That action is what can make a huge impact on others.

Working with Oklahoma DECA, DECA advisors, and DECA students has been very rewarding. In my role as the state’s child labor program administrator for the Oklahoma Department of Labor (ODOL), I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with DECA in the classroom to emphasize young worker safety to keep teens safe as they transition into the workplace.

Why is young worker safety training important? Per federal studies, the United States experiences approximately 200,000 teen worker injuries each year. Of these figures, 77,000 cases require treatment in the hospital emergency room. Sadly, 70 cases end up being fatal.

Through a statewide campaign called Speak Out for Workplace Safety, ODOL had the opportunity to work with Latta DECA in Ada, Okla., under the direction of Latta DECA advisor Stacy Oakley. Eventually a mutual partnership developed and ODOL recommended Latta Public School to test pilot a young worker safety curriculum.

After the Latta DECA students were trained, they became the first group in the nation to take a pilot assessment to measure how well they understood the core competencies of workplace safety. The results of this pilot program, led by DECA student leaders at Latta High School, would be used as a blueprint to set up young worker safety training with schools across Oklahoma and the rest of the country.

What was amazing to me was what happened after the pilot was completed. Mrs. Oakley and her students decided to create a DECA project that would promote young worker safety to every school in Oklahoma, so that every student can be versed on their rights and responsibilities while on the job. The first thing Latta DECA did was approach Oklahoma State Senator, Susan Paddack, to draft a bill to help mainstream Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) into the classroom so that every Oklahoma teenager can experience the kind of training Latta DECA had experienced during the pilot project at their school.

This led to Senator Paddack writing Senate Bill 262, which passed the Senate and then went to the House. DECA students continued with the process by working with the Co-sponsor of Senate Bill 262, House Representative Todd Thomsen.

As Senate Bill 262 moved into the House, DECA students worked hours at the state capitol educating the lawmakers about young worker safety and how this legislation will save lives. They met with the legislators face-to-face, circulated flyers to educate them about young worker safety, and handed out safety ducks to create awareness. As it turned out, the House passed Senate Bill 262 unanimously. Much credit to the DECA students for all their efforts in helping to pass Senate Bill 262 which was signed by Governor Mary Fallin on April 1, 2015. The new law went into effect August 20, 2015.

The impact of what happened was tremendous! Senate Bill 262, a Latta DECA student-driven initiative, became the nation’s first ‘mainstreaming OSH into education’ law of its kind. Senate Bill 262 now requires the state labor department to collaborate with the state education department to provide young worker safety training to students in grades 7 through 12. By teaching students about workplace safety, this changes the culture to one of injury prevention. High school students will now enter their first jobs with the mindset of safety. This will in turn, reduce the number of workplace injuries and contribute to the employer’s economic development over time.

Shortly after the new law was signed, the rest of the nation took immediate notice. Other states such as New York and California started exploring ways to model what happened in Oklahoma. A reporter with Risk & Insurance, a workers’ comp publication out of California, compared what was happening in Oklahoma to the success in Canada, a country known around the world for its strong young worker safety national initiatives to keep young workers safe. Prominent safety organizations like the National Safety Council and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) wrote articles about the success taking place in Oklahoma to keep young workers safe. The impact in Oklahoma even circulated internationally when the European Network Education and Training in Occupational Safety Health published an article about Senate Bill 262 that reached more than 60 nations around the globe!

To date, Latta DECA members continue to interact with national and state leaders from ODOL, Oklahoma State Department of Education, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, and NIOSH. Integration efforts to provide workplace safety training into the classroom has been successful via meetings, presentations, and website links. This now equates to tens of thousands of students in grades 7 through 12 to now receive workplace safety training as a way to keep teens safe while on the job.

The DECA theme, “BE EPIC,” became a reality and actually took place in Ada, Okla., and then went beyond to impact other states as well. When you empower DECA members and provide them with the tools to do something greater than life, powerful things can happen. Latta DECA was the shining example of what DECA is all about because those members truly made a huge difference in the lives of others, especially with their peers.

Kudos to Latta DECA for what they accomplished and for representing the true meaning of the phrase “BE EPIC!”

Follow Latta DECA on Twitter @DECALatta.

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