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Can I wear my flip-flops to the worksite?

thongsSelf-employment runs in my family. My sister’s 17-year-old is spending her summer days working in the family cabinet-making business. She reluctantly changed into more suitable footwear before heading out the door this morning.

Of course, the workplace educator in me saw red flags all over this situation, and it got me thinking about the casual attitude some of my clients have about health and safety issues. Here are the flags that were raised high in my mind after talking to my teenaged niece about safety shoes:

  1. The employer must orient new employees to safety issues specific to their new work surroundings.
  2. Young and inexperienced workers are significantly more likely to be involved in a workplace accident. Do “flip-flops” spell out h-i-g-h r-i-s-k to anyone?
  3. According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour, workers are four times more likely to have an accident during the first four weeks of employment.
  4. The Institute for Work & Health reports that Ontario has the lowest rate of injury among young workers. Please note: Ontario also has the highest level of legal protections for young workers AND the stiffest penalties for endangering the safety of young people at work.
  5. New supervisors need to be oriented to safety issues along with the new employees they will be supervising.
  6. A current employee is considered new when assigned to a new task or transferred to a new area.

LEARN—DON’T LITIGATE: the tips contained in this blog post are not just good advice; they describe the law!

The Ministry of Labour is watching.

Remember your workplace may be subject to an inspection at any time and without notice. Inspectors have the legal authority to order you to comply with the law or to issue a ticket when you are found to be in violation of the law.

How would you answer these questions if a Ministry of Labour inspector asked them during a random workplace inspection?

  1. Is your workplace prepared for new workers?
  2. Are your new workers ready for work?
  3. Do you provide orientation to new workers?
  4. Do you provide task-specific training and do all workers who take on a new task understand how to perform that task safely?
  5. Are new workers, especially young ones, closely supervised??

LEARN—DON’T LITIGATE: Do some reading on the topic of workplace safety and young workers. WorkSmartOntario: tips for employers is a great resource.

LEARN—DON’T LITIGATE: Provide online training for your young workers. WSIB Health & Safety 101 is at your disposal.

Andrew Lawson
Health and Safety/Human Rights Advisor, Learn Don’t Litigate

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Andrew Lawson

Trainer and advisor at Learn Don't Litigate
Andrew Lawson is a human rights and health and safety trainer and advisor, currently consulting to both the federal and Ontario governments. Since 1996, he has conducted extensive legal research in the areas of human rights and occupational health and safety law. He has worked in the people management business for over 25 years. Read more
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