Protecting Our Young

Remember what it felt like to be under 25 years old? Today's young workers are
no different. They may think nothing can ever happen to them, but don't you
believe it. In Canada, each day more than 40 workers under the age of 19 are
hurt on the job.

Statistics from the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada say
workers between the ages of 15 and 19 had 14,787 time loss injuries in Canada
in 2006, and 10 work-related fatalities. In the 20 to 24 age group, 35,976 were
injured and a further 41 of those young workers died.

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
workers rely on you for good advice, information and supervision and
ultimately, for their safety.


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 and nervous, especially at a first job. They
may want to please you and to not disappoint their parents. Being so focused on
that objective - doing a great job - can lead them to work unsafely. One of the
best things you can do as an employer is make it clear that safety is the young
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 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
their 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 the young worker 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. Stick around, watch the worker do the task, and correct any
mistakes. The young worker might 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 PPE. Provide hands-on training on the
correct use of equipment. When you demonstrate how to do a task, remember to
include safety features and control systems. The young worker should know to
keep exit doors free from clutter, for example, and to make sure safety guards
on machines stay on and equipment is turned off or disconnected after every
shift where necessary.

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

Supervise. Anyone supervising must have the knowledge, training or experience
to organize work and its performance. 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. Know the laws and regulations that apply to keeping
workers safe on the job, and know what is hazardous - or could be - in the


If you are a young worker and are reading this, know that you also have
responsibilities to stay safe on the job. If you're not getting the information
you need, 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?

  • Can you give an example of how employee health and safety is important to
    your business?

Help make this a great summer and beyond. Make sure your young workers have a
safe and positive work experience.

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety