Summertime Safety for Young Workers

by mcd_souter on July 24, 2011

in accident prevention

Summer is traditionally the time when young people head into the workforce, looking to save for their education fund or maybe just a make little extra spending money. Whether they are working on the family farm, life-guarding at their community pool or dispensing coffee at a local Tim Horton’s, it is unlikely they have given much if any thought to the potential workplace hazards that they may encounter.

Because summer is when young workers are in full force, it is also the time when the Ministry of Labour, begins its annual New/Young Worker Blitz. Workplace injuries and fatalities can usually be traced to a few root causes that may vary by sector. The Ministry of Labour’s proactive inspection blitzes on sector-specific hazards are designed to raise awareness and increase compliance with health and safety legislation.

These blitzes are announced in advance and results are reported after they are completed. The ministry tracks each sector to determine if the blitzes result in a long-lasting increase in compliance and decrease in injuries.

The message is being sent.  The government is concerned that 40,000 young workers are injured on the job every year. We need to better protect our future leaders. Not only does the Ministry of Labour play a role in this protection, but so do employers, parents and the young workers themselves.

What are the most important things we can all do to keep our young workers safe?

 Young Workers…
Ask Questions! During the interview stage, young workers (and probably most adults) just want the job and don’t want to appear demanding, but this is the perfect time to ask about anything that is cause for concern, especially your own safety. Ask about training and orientation.
o Once hired, continue to ask questions and know it’s your right to refuse unsafe work. Develop an open line of communications with your employer and ask for further training and supervision if needed.
o Keep your parents informed – discuss any concerns with them
Encourage dialogue with your children – set a good example and share positive stories from your own experiences as a young worker
o Where possible, open dialogue between you and your child’s employer can make a difference
Employers …
Provide comprehensive training and orientation
o Encourage questions and provide an environment where young workers feel confident to ask questions
o Provide a “safe” environment for employees to ask questions without the fear of reprisals or dismissal
o Training can be as easy as creating a “buddy” system, partnering a young worker with someone more experienced when they first start (statistically, most accidents happen within the first 30 days of employment)

There’s an opportunity for all of us to become safety champions and the onus doesn’t fall to just one group. As important as it is for employers to do everything in compliance with the legislation, it’s equally important for parents and young workers to be responsible advocates of their own safety.

Here is a link that has a number of resources for young workers, parents and employers.

It’s critical to reach students with the message of workplace safety early because:

A) Most students join the workforce before they finish high school; in fact, 69% of students between the ages of 15 to 19 have part-time jobs during the school year and/or work during their summers.

B) Young people are twice as likely to be injured on the job as adults. This difference can be attributed to several factors, including:
• Lack of supervision
• Lack of training and orientation
• Lack of proper equipment
• Unsafe working conditions
Many of these accidents can be prevented if students are armed with the knowledge that they need orientation and training, and that they have the right to refuse unsafe work.

 MOL Young Worker Blitz – May 1 – August 31 2011

Info on Ministry of Labour blitz and upcoming blitzes

The MOL Blitz Also Includes New Workers

It has been identified by years of statistics, that any new worker, of any age on the job, is up to four times more likely to be injured during the first month than any other time performing that job. Any new hire, whether permanent or temporary, including supervisors, with or without experience in the industry, and any current workers who are assigned new jobs are at increased risk.
The New and Young Workers Blitz will be conducted over the next four months in the industrial and health care sectors, in extended coverage workplaces, and as part of the construction sector low-rise residential blitz. In addition to inspecting for compliance with all legislative requirements, MOL inspectors will check specifically for:
• whether required employee orientation, training and supervision are in place
• what safety measures are in place to prevent injuries to this vulnerable group of workers
There are many possibilities as to why new and young workers are at greater risk of injury, such as:
• have received inadequate training
• have little or no prior work experience
• Are afraid to ask questions
• They don’t know their individual rights

Workplace health and safety is everyone’s responsibility and by law, employers must be compliant with the Ontario Health & Safety Act.  There are numerous health & safety topic resources available to help ensure you are keeping your employees safe and that a MOL inspection will go smoothly if they dropped in at your workplace.

Do you hire young workers for the summer? 

Have you done your due diligence?

Remember   –   Think Safety…Work Safely

Dedicated to helping you on your Health & Safety Journey.

Sandra McDonald- Souter
Health & Safety Trainer & Consultant

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