Young Workers in the Workplace

Worth Repeating – Young Workers in the Workplace
It’s that time of the year again when young workers are in the workplace en masse. Now that spring is finally here, it is time to remember that many young workers are entering the workplace. Maybe it is a summer job or they are taking on a first full time job. Whatever the case, their first few days on the job place them in danger and make them extremely vulnerable to accidents. In the rush and excitement to get that first job to make some real money, young people are often eager to please and can be unsure of their rights.

As an employer, you need to be prepared before your young workers arrive. Along with the usual safety orientation offered to all employees, you need to spend extra time with your young worker to ensure they understand your safety rules and know they have a right to refuse unsafe work. But what does unsafe work mean to a young worker? How will they know that something they are about to attempt could cost them their life? Is it the age of the worker or inexperience that puts them at higher risk? It seems that inexperience and youth is a double edged sword since time on the job should eventually lead to being experienced and time also allows us to age.

Too often new workers are placed in front of a computer screen, either alone or in groups, and told to watch the safety presentation. Unless there is a hands-on presentation where questions can be answered as they arise and comprehension can be measured, the exercise is seriously flawed. When resources are scarce, it is always tempting to go with the electronic babysitter but that should never be the case when lives can be lost.

All workers need in-depth safety training but young workers especially need to be counselled and shown the potential dangers and heavily supervised. A good place for an employer to start is the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to reference the excellent information available. It is never too early to talk to young people about safety. Start today and let’s make this summer the beginning of the end to workplace accidents for all, but especially the most vulnerable, our youth. Although the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) outlines that the responsibility system consists of the employer, the worker and the supervisor, parents can also get involved in the safety of their young worker before the young worker begins work. As usual the Ministry of Labour has this topic covered. They have developed information to help assist young workers become better informed in safety matters.

This article first appeared in IHHR News in May 2011.