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     Tips for Young Workers

Enter the zone for tips for youngworkers

Many students are unaware of the potentially life-threatening hazards present in the workplace.

Statistics show that approximately 800,000 occupational accidents occur in Canada each year. After car accidents, the leading causes of death among young people are machine injuries and electrocutions. Between 1994 and 1998, young workers aged between 15 and 24 sustained approximately 16 percent of all time-loss occupational injuries.

Many of these tragedies could easily have been avoided if a few basic safety rules had been followed, and if the employer had adequately trained the new employee to recognize potentially dangerous situations.

Unfortunately, young workers are often so intent on impressing a potential employer at a job interview that they often neglect to ask about workplace safety or job training. Many young workers are unaware of the inherent risks associated with their new job. Some may claim to understand the safety instructions they are given in order to please the trainer when in reality they do not.

You can help ensure your own workplace safety by knowing what to look for when entering a new or different work situation, and by knowing what questions to ask your potential or present employer. The Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia encourages young workers to take the initiative and protect themselves by asking their employer the following questions:

  1. What are the dangers of my job?
  2. Are there any hazards (noise, chemicals, radiation) that I should know about?
  3. Will I receive job safety training? When?
  4. Is there any safety gear that I'll be expected to wear? Will I receive training in how to use it?
  5. Will I be trained in emergency procedures (fire, chemical spill?) When?
  6. Where are fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and other emergency equipment located?
  7. What are my health and safety responsibilities?
  8. Who do I ask if I have a safety question?
  9. Do you have safety meetings?
  10. What do I do if I get hurt? Who is the first aid person?

* Worker's Compensation Board of B.C. Prevention at Work, July/August 1995

To achieve the highest levels of safety, you must possess KNOWLEDGE about the hazards you encounter, PRACTICAL SKILLS to avoid them and the MOTIVATION to apply your safety skills and knowledge.

A Few More Practical Tips for Young Workers

  1. At your interview, keep an eye out for signs that the employer takes safety seriously (e.g., warning signs in hazardous areas, employees wearing protective equipment, safety posters).
  2. If you aren't given one, ask for a copy of the safety rules.
  3. Ask experienced employees, during training, about safety hazards.
  4. To find out more information about a chemical, write down the product name from the label along with the name of the manufacturer or supplier, then look up the MSDS.
  5. Learn how to recognize the WHMIS hazards symbols and know what they mean.
  6. Know how to wear your personal protective equipment properly.
  7. Follow all safety precautions.
  8. Notify your supervisor if you experience any symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, irritation in your throat or eyes, or skin rashes, that might indicate that you are being overexposed to a chemical.

The ability to recognize potential hazards in the workplace requires not only common sense but also observation, learning and experience. REMEMBER: If there is any doubt in your mind as to the safety of the materials you are handling or the duties of your employment, you have the right and the responsibility to bring your concerns to your supervisor's attention. Ultimately, all employees, including students, have the right to refuse to do work that is unsafe, and employers cannot fire anyone for exercising this right.

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