Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2013

Project Title

Teething Problems: Embedding ‘New Generation’ OHS into the Dental Assisting Program

Project Leader

Ms Cheryl Underwood

Project Team

  • David Towl
  • Emily Trembath
  • Dr Patricia McLaughlin
  • Daniela Norman

Project Summary

Students and young workers are at the highest risk of work-related injuries. Alarmingly, research shows that as many as half of all injuries to young workers go unreported (Worksafe, 2011). Teaching staff from across RMIT report high rates of bullying and harassment, alcohol and drug use, unplanned pregnancy and general ill-health in students, which is corroborated by research evidence (Du Plessis, 2012; Kypri, Cronin & Wright, 2005; Polizzotto, Saw, Tjhung, Chua & Stockwell, 2007 McGee & Kypri, 2004).

New Generation Operational Health and Safety (OHS) skills are those that go beyond the traditional ‘slips trips and falls’ and encompass issues such as assertiveness, self-esteem, mental wellbeing and the impact of alcohol and drugs in the workplace. Despite the evidenced need, current training approaches do not address these New Generation skills.

This project pilots the development of curriculum encompassing ‘New Generation OHS’ within a cohort of 300 dental assisting trainees. It aims to build staff and organisational capacity to sustain these practices and, in turn, support students. Piloting this project will develop work-ready students, who are better able to function in the modern workplace, and incubate a program to be disseminated across the TAFE sector at RMIT.

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