New workers are 3 times more likely to be injured on the job than more experienced workers. In 2017, there were 6 traumatic fatalities and 7,956 lost-time claims reported among workers aged 15-24. These are just the reported claims, some injuries go unreported. Lack of experience, lack of training, and hesitancy to ask questions contributes to the higher rate of injury experienced by new and young workers. Fortunately, employers can take proactive steps to mitigate the risks that these workers 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 the new and young worker’s right to know. If they don’t have access to information designed to keep them safe, they may unknowingly contravene rules that are designed to protect them.
Not providing required safety information proved to be a gap for many employers of young workers during the Ministry of Labour’s most recent Inspection Blitz focused on new and young workers. The most frequently-issued order by inspectors involved the employer’s failure to post a copy of the OHSA and any explanatory material.
Use our Health and Safety Board Template to post and organize the required information to help keep your new and young workers informed. Provide workplace-specific policies in writing and have all new workers review and acknowledge them before starting the job.
Training workers gives them the knowledge and confidence to perform their tasks confidently and safely. New and young workers must be provided training on the following, even if they are only being hired on a temporary basis:
- Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
- Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
- Worker Health and Safety Awareness
- Workplace Violence and Harassment
New and young workers 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. Depending on the task, training may be informal and on-the-job. Some industries and job tasks may require formal training. For example, workers in the construction industry will require Chief Prevention Officer-Approved Working at Heights Construction training.
Provide Adequate Supervision
Employers have a legal obligation to provide workers with information, instruction, and supervision. Assign a competent supervisor to monitor every new worker to meet this obligation. Supervisors need to monitor young workers to make sure they are working in compliance with the OHSA and using personal protective equipment appropriately. If they notice unsafe behaviour, they should address it right away. In the case of a new or young worker, it’s likely a lack of knowledge that’s causing 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 workers. Confirm that your supervisors have enough capacity to train and monitor new workers if you are hiring several at once.
Encourage Feedback and Participation
Young workers often hesitate to ask questions which can leave 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 workers during their inspections. New workers may recognize hazards that more experienced workers have become accustomed to. Finally, share with new and young workers the importance of reporting hazards and injuries to their supervisor.
New and young workers are a valuable, but vulnerable group of workers. By taking steps to protect their safety, you can ensure that they remain effective contributors to your team, rather than a threat 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 our Seasonal Onboarding Package, Consulting, or Health and Safety for Young Workers Training.