According to a first-of-its-kind study by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, apprenticeship programs result in safer workers and fewer workers’ compensation claims.

“Apprentices are safer because they’re learning all the proper techniques,” said Peter Guzman, manager of L&I’s Apprenticeship Program, in a prepared statement. “Now the science backs us up.”

The study, by L&I’s Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention Program, linked registered apprenticeship data with plumber certification information. Then, it compared worker compensation claims between 2000 and 2018. The work underwent a peer review and publication last fall in the Journal of Safety Research.

The findings show workers’ compensation claim rates were 31 percent lower among journey level plumbers with apprenticeship training compared with plumbers who did not complete an apprenticeship. 

Sara Wuellner, a 13-year agency veteran who led the study, said on-the-job training, mentorship, and classroom instruction are elements of apprenticeship training that can improve safety. She added that other variables might also make a difference, including previous education, union participation, or an employer safety program.