This summer, many employers across the province will hire summer students to bolster their workforces. While hiring students can provide valuable work experience and training opportunities (and short-term access to labour), employers need to be aware of potentially increased liability for workplace injuries or illnesses suffered by young and new workers.
The MOL classifies “young workers” as employees who are under age 25, and “new workers” as workers of any age who are on the job for less than 6 months or who are assigned to a new job. In May 2016, the Ministry of Labour (“MOL”) released statistics indicating that workers that are new to their jobs are 3 times more likely to be injured in their first month of employment than at any later time. Additionally, from 2010 to 2015, more than 6,000 young workers across Ontario were injured seriously enough to require time off work, amounting to 17 avoidable workplace injuries or illnesses to Ontario youth per day. Most significantly, there were 17 young worker fatalities from 2010 to 2015.
To address the higher rates of workplace injury and illness affecting this vulnerable category of workers, the MOL has renewed its commitment to ensuring that Ontario’s young and new workers are protected. On May 10, 2017, the MOL announced that its Inspectors would be conducting a series of province-wide blitzes to ensure that the health and safety of young and new workers’ is being protected.
A review of recent case law indicates that the MOL is issuing increasingly higher penalties against employers in cases involving young workers:
- November 2, 2016 – A Barrie-based construction employer pleaded guilty to charges under the OHSA, and was fined $100,000 when a young worker suffered permanent injuries after being pulled into an exposed pinch point on a construction site;
- October 7, 2016 – $50,000 fine after a young worker was injured when he fell through an open scrap chute;
- May 24, 2016 – $65,000 fine after an employee of an electrical company was injured in a fall of almost twenty-two (22) feet on the employer’s premises.
- January 25, 2016 – After a lengthy trial, a Toronto-based energy company was fined $280,000 because of the death of a young worker in a 2008 explosion.
To better equip young and new workers to deal with workplace hazards over the summer months, the MOL advises that employers, supervisors and trainers should emphasize the need for these workers to communicate any questions or concerns they may have about workplace safety to their supervisors immediately. The MOL has further indicated that supervisors or others who will be involved in training new workers must be familiar with the unique health and safety concerns faced by young and new workers.
To minimize the likelihood that an Inspector will find a breach of the OHSA, the MOL recommends that employers dedicate extra resources to training and supervising:
- New hires with or without experience in the industry;
- Existing workers starting a new job, being transferred, and/or returning after an extended absence;
- Workers who will benefit from retraining after a “near miss” incident or injury;
- Workers who will be working on a new or different work process or with new machinery;
- Seasonal workers;
- Student workers and co-op students;
- Temporary workers, regardless of their experience in the industry.
The MOL has published materials specifically aimed at young and new workers, such as its new “ONgov” Youtube Channel. The channel provides these workers with quick and easy access to short videos which discuss common workplace risks affecting summer workers (such as heat stress).
Additional MOL publications and resources that are aimed at young and new workers can be found on the MOL’s Website.
Written by Tushar Anandasagar | Associate Lawyer at LeClair and Associates
Tushar Anandasagar is an associate lawyer at LeClair and Associates P.C. He specializes in Labour and Employment law, with a focus on Workplace Policy Development and Regulatory Compliance.
Do you want to receive the latest and safest news directly to your inbox?
It’s easy! Press the button below to subscribe!