Keeping young and new workers safe on the job
A young construction worker was killed when she was hit by a car; a young worker fell to his death through a store's drop ceiling; and another suffered a punctured lung, spinal fracture and concussion when he collided with the tow line lifting device while testing a run at a ski hill. In 2009, 35 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 died in Canada from work-related injuries or illnesses. Another 33,836 were injured severely enough to be granted workers compensation.
Young and new workers are particularly vulnerable to workplace injury or illness, many of the injuries occurring in the first month on the job. The reasons vary. These workers may not fully understand, or be confident about their rights as workers. Eager to impress and accept new challenges, new workers may readily accept risky assignments for which they are not fully prepared and be reluctant to ask questions. They often lack training and experience and may not understand the hazards in the workplace.
The bottom line: anyone who lacks experience and training is at particular risk of getting injured.
What employers can do
Ensuring the safety and health of young and new workers starts with having a good health and safety management system that protects everyone. As an employer you must ensure that safety measures and procedures are in place and followed, to protect all workers. You must ensure equipment, materials and protective devices comply with health and safety laws, and that young workers are trained on - and use - these protective measures at all times.
New and young workers must receive effective health and safety orientation and training before starting to work. This orientation should include information about the company's health and safety policy, their personal responsibilities, hazards in their workplace, and how to protect themselves starting day one. Encourage your young workers to ask questions and to alert their supervisors immediately if they see something that could endanger the safety of themselves or others. And when health and safety concerns are reported, respond promptly to address them.
Don't assign tasks that require a high degree of skill or responsibility to young or new workers. Do not ask a young or new person to work alone or perform critical or risky tasks, such as handling dangerous chemicals. Show the worker how to do each task the safe way, and do it more than once. Be accessible, watch the worker do the task and correct any mistakes. Continue to monitor the worker until you are confident they know how to do the work safely.
Provide or ensure that the worker has and uses all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety shoes, hardhat or gloves. Make sure the young worker knows where to find it, how to use it, and how to care for it.
What parents can do
Talk to your children about their job. Find out about the tasks they perform; what training and orientation they receive; and what equipment, tools or chemicals they work with. Encourage them to think about potential hazards in the workplace, such as unguarded machinery, chemical products, tools, working alone, working at heights, and any other hazard that applies to their job.
In particular, they should know they have a legal right to be informed about workplace hazards and how to protect themselves; a right to participate in activities that will improve their working conditions; and a right to refuse unsafe work. Tell your children to report an injury or illness immediately to their supervisor - no matter how small.
What young and new workers need to know
All workers have a legal right to a safe work environment and your employer has a responsibility to protect you. You also have an important role to play in ensuring your safety. When you start a new job make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. If you don't get the information you need to stay safe on the job, speak up. You can protect your own health and safety or even save your life by asking these questions:
- What are the physical demands of the job?
- Will I have to work very late at night or very early in the morning?
- Will I ever work alone?
- What kind of safety gear will I need to wear?
- Will there be noise? Chemicals? Other hazards?
- What safety training will I receive?
- When will I receive this training?
- Where are the first-aid supplies and fire extinguishers kept?
- Do you have a worker safety policy and an emergency plan?
- What do I do if I get hurt? Who is the first aid person?
- Can you give an example of how employee health and safety is important to your business?
There are resources available for young workers, parents, employers, and teachers that provide information that can help keep new and young workers safe on the job:
Young Workers Zone, CCOHS
Heads Up Campaign, Workers' Compensation Board - Alberta
So Many Ways, Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia
WorkSafeBC Safety at Work centre for workers under 25
- Young Worker Awareness Program (YWAP), Workerplace Safety Insurance Board
In the News
It can confuse the senses: shampoo that smells like green apples; clean laundry freshness that mimics fields of wildflowers; and underarm deodorant packed with the fragrance of an ocean breeze. Although they may smell pleasant, for your coworkers with sensitivities to scent, the fragrances found in countless products including soaps, detergents, personal care products, and household cleaners, may come with unpleasant health effects.
For people with fragrance sensitivities, the chemicals in fragrances can cause irritation or trigger allergic reactions. Depending on how sensitive they are, they may experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headache, itchy skin, hives, itchy eyes and nose, runny nose, wheezing, coughing, sore throat, breathing difficulties, and/or asthma. Reactions to fragrances can vary from one person to the next, however once a person has developed fragrance sensitivity, it may continue to get worse over time and with repeated exposure.
The person wearing scents can be affected by them as well as anyone they come into contact with. This can create a challenge in the workplace where people interact or sit in close proximity of one another. Promote the "arm's length" rule: that no scent should be detectable at more than an arm's length from the individual.
One of the best ways to prevent reactions to fragrances is to avoid exposure to them, although this is difficult to do with the number of chemical fragrances contained in the products we use every day. Look for products labelled "perfume free" or "fragrance free", which are the most likely to contain no fragrances. An "unscented" product may not have a detectable scent however it may contain a trace amount of fragrance added to the product to mask scent. Fragrances added to products are not always labelled as ingredients; fragrance formulas are often well guarded trade secrets which companies prefer not to share.
How you can accommodate scent sensitivities in your workplace
When fragrance chemicals are suspected to be affecting someone's health, follow these steps to clear the air of scents:
- Adopt a scent-free or scent-reduced policy in your workplace.
- Post a sign at the entranceways of your workplace to remind visitors and employees that the building or office is "scent-free", or to be aware that fragrances can aggravate or cause health issues for people with sensitivities or other health conditions.
- Encourage all employees to use scent-free products and wherever possible, choose scent-free products for the workplace.
- Reduce emissions from building materials, cleaning products and other sources of fragrances if possible.
- Maintain good indoor air quality (ventilation) to prevent scents from being spread throughout the building.
- When all else fails, consider relocating the workstations of highly sensitized people to minimize their exposure to the offending scents.
You should inform your employees about the issue of scents sensitivities and help them understand how fragrances can impact the health of their coworkers. Ask for their assistance in maintaining a fragrance-free workplace - so that all may be able to breathe easy.
Learn more about the health effects of fragrances and how to set up a scent-free policy for the workplace from CCOHS.
Learn about scents and indoor air quality from The Lung Association
Download the free Air Aware poster from CCOHS
National Day of Mourning, April 28
April 28th is National Day of Mourning in Canada. The flag on Parliament Hill will fly at half mast, we will pause, remember those who have lost their lives or been injured in the workplace, and reflect on how to prevent future tragedies.
You can wear your support with a Day of Mourning commemorative pin. Or, you can download and display our free poster in your workplace. Printed posters are also available at a nominal cost.
Steps for Life Walk, May 1
On May 1st, in 35 cities across Canada, the Steps for Life 5 KM Walk will kick off NAOSH Week 2011. The event is not only fun, it also helps spread the message that workplace injuries and illnesses are preventable. Steps for Life is the major fundraising event for Threads of Life, a national charitable organization dedicated to supporting families, who have suffered from a workplace fatality, life-altering illness or occupational disease, along their journey of healing.
The CCOHS team will once again be walking in the Hamilton event. Find the walk closest to you and put your team together. It will be a Sunday to remember.
Learn more about how you can participate from the Steps for Life website.
Learn more about the National Day of Mourning.
Download the Day of Mourning poster.
Order Day of Mourning pins.
Learn more about Threads of Life.
Visit the NAOSH Week website.
Health and Safety To Go
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips and insights into the health, safety and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience...or on the go!
In this month's face to face episode of Health and Safety To Go, Smoking Cessation and the Workplace, we chat with Jennifer Mitton of Hamilton Public Health Services' Tobacco Control Program about the issues around smoking cessation with tips on how to kick the habit for workers and workplaces alike. The podcast runs just over 11 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Just in time for the National Day of Mourning and National Occupational Health and Safety (NAOSH) Week, we have an encore podcast: Workplace Injuries: A Personal Story with Bill Bowman. Bill, a victim of a workplace injury, shares his personal story and how he and his family were impacted by the tragedy. Bill also describes the work of Threads of Life, an organization that provides support to families affected by workplace tragedies. The podcast runs just over 9 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
See the complete list of podcast topics. Better yet, subscribe to the series on iTunes and don't miss a single episode.
It will be here before you know it. Planning is underway for Forum IV, CCOHS' National Conference on Workplace Health and Safety and soon we'll have program details to share with you. But for now, circle October 29 and 30, 2012 on your calendar and plan to join us in Halifax, Nova Scotia for what is sure to be another rewarding discussion.
Join our mailing list and we'll keep you informed as details become available, or check the Forum website often.
It's that time of year again when we check in with you to see how we're doing. We are continually making improvements to the Report based on feedback we receive from our readers. The Report is now emailed to more than 29,500 every month to readers in more than 110 countries around the world.
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2015, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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