Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #: 131:  Keeping Both Young and New Workers Safe This Summer


Introduction Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Host:  While young people are busy thinking about starting new summer jobs they may not realize that their “newness” to the world of work could be hazardous to their health. Research from the Institute for Work and Health reveals that new workers in the first month on the job have over 3 times the risk of lost-time injury as workers with over a year’s experience on the job.

Statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada show that in 2015, there were over 30,000 accepted lost time claims by workers ages 15 to 24 in Canada, and 15 deaths from work-related injuries or illnesses. Surprising? 

Workers, parents and employers all have a shared responsibility for health and safety and there are a few things you can do to help prepare our young people for work and protect them from harm.

As a parent, when you see your teenager off to their new summer job, take the time to talk to them about their work as well as what precautions they can take to help ensure they come home healthy and safe. Perhaps you can share some of the safe work practices from your own workplace and encourage them to speak up if they feel unprepared or not properly trained. Tell them they have a right to refuse work that they feel is dangerous or that could put them in harm’s way.

As an employer, you have the responsibility to create and foster a safe and healthy work environment and to protect the health and safety of all your workers. You should have a comprehensive orientation program for your employees and communicate health and safety roles and responsibilities. You must properly train your new employees for the job that they are required to do. This sets the tone for the workplace and ensures that workers are starting on safe footing.

If you hire students or young workers, keep in mind that anyone who lacks experience and trained judgment is at particular risk of getting injured. Young and new workers rely on you for your good advice, information and supervision and ultimately, for their safety.

Let’s talk more about how an employer can help keep these new workers safe on the job:

Ensuring the safety and health of young people in the workplace starts with having a good health and safety management system that protects everyone. 

Young workers may feel pressured to do a good job and nervous, especially if it’s their first job. One of the best things that you can do as an employer is make it clear that safety is the worker's first priority, and that it's perfectly fine to ask questions. 

Assign suitable work. Some tasks are better reserved for more experienced workers. Before you even hire, assess the job and what it entails. What hazards will the worker be exposed to? Will certain situations present new risks? Will the worker ever have to fetch something from a confined space, a hard-to-reach area or some other hazardous spot? Will the worker be welding or doing some other task that could injure the worker and others in the vicinity? 

Avoid assigning tasks that require a high degree of skill, lengthy training or a great deal of responsibility. Do not expect a young person to work alone or perform critical or risky tasks, such as handling dangerous chemicals. 

Make time for training. Before young people or new workers start work, they must receive effective health and safety orientation and training. This could include the company's health and safety policy, their personal responsibilities, hazards in the workplace, how to protect themselves starting day one, who to go to for advice, and what to do if things seem unsafe.

Tell young workers not to perform any task until they have been trained to do it. Encourage them to ask questions at any time, especially about safety. Demonstrate how to do each task the safe way, and do it more than once.

Be accessible to your employees. Stick around, watch them do the task, and correct any mistakes. A new worker may feel pressured to get it right the first time, so you can help by being patient and repeating instructions and demonstrating procedures as often as necessary. Continue to monitor the worker.

Provide appropriate safety equipment and personal protective equipment. Provide hands-on training to the worker on how to correctly use the equipment. When you show them how to do a task, remember to include safety features and control systems. For example, the worker should know how to keep exit doors free from clutter; to make sure safety guards on machines stay on and equipment is turned off or disconnected after every shift as necessary.

Provide or ensure that the worker has all necessary personal protective equipment such as safety shoes, hardhat or gloves, as the job requires. Make sure they know where to find it, how to use it, and how to care for it. 

Supervise your new workers, and anyone supervising must have the knowledge, training or experience to organize work and its performance. Due to the lack of understanding, a 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. Know the laws and regulations that apply to keeping workers safe on the job, and know what is hazardous - or could be - in the workplace – and share this with the worker. 

If you are a parent of a young worker listening to this, remind your kids that they too, have rights and responsibilities. If they’re not getting the information they need, they can protect their own health and safety by asking the following questions:

Help make this a great summer and beyond. Let’s work together to make sure our young workers have a safe and positive work experience.

For more information about keeping young and new workers safe in the workplace, visit the Young Workers Zone at www.ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.