By Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article and comments at Moneyville.ca
Every year thousands of enthusiastic young people get their first summer job in factories, construction sites and fast food restaurants. But they might be a little less eager and a lot more careful, if they were aware that new and young workers in Ontario are four times more likely to be injured during the first months of employment than at any other time.
According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s annual reports, between 2005 and 2009, 36 young workers aged 15-24 died in work-related incidents such as falls, motor vehicle collisions and accidents involving machinery. The most common workplace injuries included sprains and strains, cuts, lacerations, punctures, bruises and other contusions.
As a result, at the beginning of May, Ontario’s Safety at Work strategy launched a four-month safety blitz that will target industrial and health care workplaces with new and young workers to prevent injury and death.
The WSIB has also created a Young Worker Awareness Program to give students the information they need to protect their health and safety on the job. Here are seven things you and your kids need to know to ensure that they are protected each and every day they are at work:
1. What you don’t know can hurt you: You name it, and it happens. Young workers are injured by slips and falls, overexerting themselves, objects that hit them, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and contact with hazardous materials.
They are also injured by powerful machines they don’t understand, that may not have guards to protect fingers and arms, or that may not be operated safely.
2. What you do know can save your life: All workers need to be able to identify the hazards in their workplace. A hazard is anything that can hurt them or make them ill.
A table on the Young Worker Awareness Program website has examples of the chemical, physical, biological and ergonomic hazards employees should be able to recognize, assess and help control in the workplace.
3. Laws and regulations: The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives every worker three important rights.
The right to know: Workers have the right to know the hazards in their job. Employer or supervisor must tell them about anything in the job that can hurt them. Employer must make sure employees are provided with the information needed to work safely.
The right to participate: All employees have the right to take part in keeping their workplace healthy and safe. Depending on the size of the company, they can be part of the Joint Health and Safety Committee or be a Health and Safety Representative.
The right to refuse unsafe work: Where an employee believes the job is dangerous, in most situations he can refuse to do it.
4. What the law expects: The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires that every member of the workplace do their part to ensure a safe and healthy environment. The duties and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and others that are outlined in the legislation overlap and complement each other. Together, they create the Internal Responsibility System.
5. What employees can expect: Employer and supervisors must ensure employees have the information or required training and equipment to protect them. Employees must receive both general workplace safety information and/or training and specific safety training.
Where a job involves working with chemicals, employers also have to provide specialized Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System training. In addition, employers must verify workers have the necessary personal protective equipment required for the job and that they use it.
6. Reporting requirements: Young workers frequently do not report injuries because the boss is a family friend, they are afraid their boss will think they can’t do the job properly, they think the injury is not serious or they are afraid co-workers will think less of them.
However, any injury or illness at work must be reported to make sure the injured person gets the correct medical treatment right away and receives appropriate compensation as soon as possible.
7. Don’t gamble with your health and safety:Employers and supervisors have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees and most do. But in the end, employees have to ask questions about workplace hazards, training, safety gear and emergency equipment.
If employees have concerns there are people they can talk to and if all else fails, they can contact the Ministry of Labour on a no name basis.
The Young Workers Awareness Program is available to any high school in Ontario. Trained instructors will come to schools at no charge to deliver this crucial message using video and other media. Students receive a resource booklet and additional information.
Summer jobs are an essential source of experience and revenue for cash-starved students. But no job is worth dying for. Like all workers in this province, young people have a non-negotiable right to a healthy, safe workplace.