4 Ways to Protect New and Young Workers

New workers are three times more likely to be injured on the job than more experienced workers. In 2017, there were six traumatic fatalities and 7,956 lost-time claims reported among employees aged 15-24. These are just the reported claims—some injuries go unreported. Lack of experience, lack of training, and hesitancy to ask questions contribute to the higher rate of injury experienced by new and young employees. Fortunately, employers can take proactive steps to mitigate the risks that these employees face. Here’s how:

Provide Safety Information

Young workers enjoy the same basic rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) as every other worker. They have the right to know, the right to refuse, and the right to participate. Posting all required explanatory material helps support new and young employee’s right to know. If they don’t have access to this information to help keep them safe, they may unknowingly disregard rules designed to protect them.

Not providing required safety information proved to be a gap for many employers of young employees during a Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development’s Inspection Blitz focused on new and young workers. The most frequently-issued order by Ministry inspectors involved employers’ failure to post a copy of the OHSA and any explanatory material. Almost 500 Ontario businesses were given orders to post the OHSA—required by all Ontario organizations.

Use our Health and Safety Board Template to post and organize the required information to help keep your new and young employees informed. It’s a good idea to provide workplace-specific policies in writing and have all new employees review and acknowledge them before starting the job.

Provide Training

Training employees gives them the knowledge and confidence to perform their tasks safely. New and young employees must be provided training on the following, even if they are only being hired on a temporary basis:

New and young employees also need to be provided with job or task-specific training. This training must cover safe operating procedures, known hazards, and how to use personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the task, training may be informal and on-the-job. Some industries and job tasks may require formal training.

Provide Adequate Supervision

Employers have a legal obligation to provide employees with information, instruction, and supervision. Assign a competent supervisor to monitor new employees to meet this obligation. Supervisors need to monitor new employeess to make sure they are working in compliance with the OHSA and using PPE appropriately. If they notice unsafe behaviour, they should address it right away. In the case of new employees, it’s usually a lack of knowledge behind their unsafe behaviour, not a disregard for policies. 

Since new and young workers will have less experience, they may need more supervision than more experienced employees. Confirm that your supervisors have enough capacity to train and monitor new employees if you are hiring several at once.

Encourage Feedback and Participation

Young employees may hesitate to ask questions leaving them facing unnecessary risks. Support your new employee’s participation in their own safety by encouraging feedback. Demonstrate your openness by making sure supervisors respond respectfully to all questions, as basic as they may seem to a seasoned supervisor. Ask members of your Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) to regularly check in with new employees during their inspections. People new to your organization may recognize hazards that more experienced people have become accustomed to. Finally, share with new and young employees the importance of reporting hazards and injuries to their supervisor.

New and young workers are a valuable but vulnerable group. By taking steps to protect their safety, you can ensure that they remain effective contributors to your team, rather than a risk to their own wellbeing and the safety of your workplace.

If you need help creating a Health and Safety Program that adequately protects this vulnerable sector, OSG can help.

Contact us below to learn more about how OSG consulting can help you. We’ll respond within one business day to set up a free discovery call to learn about your needs.