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Common sense, health and safety and young workers

youth-worker-health-and-safetyA friend of mine told me that she used to believe in common sense until one of her young summer workers put his hand where it wasn’t supposed to go.  Fortunately only a finger was lost and it was able to be re-attached later; but my friend’s philosophical belief in common sense was chopped off forever.

What most people think of as common sense is actually a combination of experience and training as applied to both standard and non-standard situations.  If there was such a thing as common sense, the Australian Public Service Announcements “Dumb Ways to Die” would not be needed.

Young worker health and safety injuries

New and young workers need the health and safety training in workplace specific situations because of the lack of a shared common sense, their lack of experience and their lack of training.  According to WSIB statistics from 2006 to 2012; 48 young workers aged 15 to 24 died in work-related incidents and more than 58,000 young workers received injuries resulting in lost time at work.

Health and safety training requirements

Providing health and safety training for your young workers is not to be conflated with the mandatory health and safety awareness training that is applicable to all workplaces as of July 1, 2014.  The MOL provides many resources to outline best practices in health and safety for training young workers. The MOL training standards include ensuring that young workers are:  being instructed, trained and supervised on the job; meet minimum age requirements, and following required safety measures and procedures to prevent injuries.

Health and safety blitzes and work orders

Keep in mind that even your best efforts may not be enough because employers are required to take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances for the protection of workers.  Even the most well-meaning employers may overlook something.  For example, during the almost 3000 MOL Young Worker Safety Blitzes in summer 2013 inspectors conducted 2,982 visits to 2,326 workplaces and issued 8,582 orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including 201 stop work orders. Some of the workplaces were visited several times.  On average, 2.92 orders were issued per workplace visit.

Five steps to help your organization pass a MOL health and safety inspection blitz and increase safety for your young workers

  1. Create written and dated standards (policies and procedures) around Health and Safety such as*:  a Health and Safety Policy, Emergency Procedures, Accident and Incident Reporting, Orientation Policy, Department Specific Training Checklists, Hazard Assessments, guidelines for personal protective equipment (*not a complete list).  Best practice is to involve both the highest levels of management as well as supervisors and workers in the development of your standards.
  2. Communicate your written standards with all departments, supervisors and workers:  Date the communication and document the type of communication and the content whether it is a posting, an email or a staff meeting.  Ensure communication of the written standards is included in the new and young worker orientation process.  This can be achieved by having new workers sign and date an orientation checklist.
  3. Train the new young workers and document the training:  Make sure that there is an assigned supervisor and a department specific training the young worker.  This can take the form of a signed and dated department specific checklist or it could take the form of a various training modules (online, PowerPoints or binders) and related quizzes.
  4. Evaluate and make improvements to your program:  It is one thing to tell the young worker that the machine guard can’t be removed, but if during a walk around you find that the guard is off, you need to follow-up on the issue.   Document if Health and Safety procedures are not being followed and what your organization is doing to ensure that they will be followed in the future.   A one month performance evaluation that includes Health and Safety procedures is a great idea.
  5. Celebrate success:  Don’t take being accident free for granted.  Ensure supervisors and workers are rewarded for the extra efforts that it takes to train and integrate young workers.

We all know some young workers and we may even be related to them.  Let’s make sure we take the time to share our learned experiences and training so that they will be able to face workplace challenges in a safe and successful way this summer!

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Marcia Scheffler

Human Resources Generalist at Wawel Villa
Marcia Scheffler, M.A., CHRP Candidate is a Human Resources Generalist with M.A. working full-time as a Senior HR Officer. She is interested in the intersection of human resources theory and current best practices in HR. Read more
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