Employers play a very important role in promoting and maintaining a safe workplace!
In many cases, you are a young worker's first boss. Help them understand the hazards of their job and how they can work safely. In order to reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries there are some basic steps you can take to train your young workers.
Assigning Suitable Work (adapted)
Before any training begins, you should understand what constitutes suitable work for young people. Avoid assigning jobs which require:
- long training times or a high degree of skill
- a great deal of responsibility
- critical or risky tasks to be performed (eg. working with hazardous chemicals)
- working alone
Age regulations in Ontario are (other Canadian jurisdictions have similar provisions):
- minimum age of employment is 14
- 15 for factory work
- 16 for logging and constuction projects
- 18 for underground mining
Before assigning work to a young worker consider these aspects of the job they will do:
- What hazards are in the workplace environment around the
- Are there special work situations which come up which could lead to new risks for this worker? For example: are there risks which might be one task to fetch materials?
- Are there occasional risks from co-workers, such as welding or machining which could affect the workers nearby?
- In slow periods, a young worker might be asked to "help out" other employees. Ensure that any hazards associated with those jobs are reviewed with the young worker, by both you and the co-worker which will supervise those tasks.
Understanding Young Workers
Young workers think differently than older and more experienced employees. Keep these facts in mind:
- Young people tend to take risks and are unrealistic about their own mortality.
Take care to caution your employee about potential hazards and negative outcomes.
- Young people may be reluctant to ask questions for fear of appearing unknowledgeable. Make sure that they understand that their first job priority is to ask questions when they are unsure.
- Due to lack of understanding, a young worker may decide to make changes to the job in unexpected and possibly risky ways. Be sure that they are closely supervised, and stick to recognized and safe work procedures
Ensure you communicate with the new worker about the job tasks clearly and frequently, repeating and confirming this training over the first few weeks of work. Some new workers are overwhelmed with instructions at first, and may need to hear this information repeated more than once. Also:
- Tell young workers not to perform any task until they have been properly trained.
- Tell young workers not to leave their work area unless they've been told to do so. Other work sites may have special hazards of which they may be unaware.
- Tell young workers that if they don't know or if they are unsure of something, to ask someone first. Get them to think in a safety-minded way about all their work.
Steps in Training
- Give the young worker clear instructions including what health and safety precautions to take.
- Show them how to perform the tasks safely, repeating parts of the procedures if necessary.
- Watch the worker perform the tasks the first time, making sure to correct any mistakes.
- Allow the worker to repeat the tasks until they are comfortable with the routine, and don't have any more questions.
- Continue to monitor the worker to make sure they are doing their tasks properly.
Safety and Personal Protective Equipment
In addition to this training, ensure that any young worker which must use hazardous equipment is given detailed training on safety features or control systems to operate it properly. For example, they may need to be aware that they must keep exit doors free from clutter, assure that safety guards remain on machinery or that equipment is turned off or disconnected at the end of each shift.
If young workers must wear protective equipment such as safety shoes, hard hat, or gloves, be sure that they know when they need to wear protective gear, where to find it, how to use it, and how to care for it.
Before any work begins, young workers need to be trained for emergencies. Make sure they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. They need to know locations of fire or emergency alarms and exits. They should also know the whereabouts of emergency showers, eyewash stations, First Aid and how to obtain medical help.
A supervisor must ensure that the young worker is properly trained on all aspects of their job and safety in their workplace. A supervisor has these responsibilities:
- to be qualified by knowledge, training or experience to organize work and its performance
- to know the laws and regulations that apply to the job
- to know the potential and actual hazards in the workplace
While you can use the same material you use for other workers, some material written specifically for you and your young workers includes:
Special guest Len Hong, PCEO of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, discusses how employers can help young workers stay safe at work.
Employing Young Workers - Tips for Supervisors (WorkSmartOntario)
Employing Young Workers - Tips for Employers (WorkSmartOntario)
The Ontario Ministry of Labour’s WorkSmartOntario offers resources to employers on why they should be concerned about young worker safety and what they can do to improve the safety record for young workers.
Source: Ministry of Labour
It's up to you to help keep them safe.
A two page young worker orientation fact sheet for employers to review from the Health Care Health and Safety Association of Ontario.