Young Workers in the Workplace

Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator

Young workers are typically between the ages of 14-25. Many of them are students on summer break, eager to make some cash over the summer, gain some experience, and make a few memories along the way.

Sadly, young workers are at staggering disadvantage: they are three times more likely than other workers to be injured or killed within the first month of employment.

Between 2011 and 2015, 33 young workers aged 15-24 died in work-related incidents. They were somebody’s sons. Somebody’s daughters. Somebody’s brother, sister, or friend. They were, and will continue to be, fiercely missed every single day by their families, loved ones, and friends.

What is the Ministry of Labour Doing to Protect Young Workers?

Between July 18 and September 2, 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Labour conducted an enforcement blitz in industrial sectors that are known to hire young and new workers. The summarized goals of the blitz were as follows:

  • To ensure that young and new workers were made aware of hazards
  • To raise awareness about rights and responsibilities of all workers
  • To encourage employers to recognize and controls hazards
  • To address, remedy, or deter non-compliance with the Act
  • To promote improved health and safety for young and new workers

The results of the blitz were released and in the course of 1144 visits to 905 workplaces, 3113 orders were issued – an astounding 44 of which were stop work orders. The three most frequent orders involved employer failure to post a copy of the Act, failure to maintain equipment in good working order, and failure to take reasonable precautions for worker safety.  There were no orders issued for employing workers under the legal age.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour will continue to take steps to ensure the safety of young workers. Their intent is to save lives and ensure that all sons and daughters make it home, every night. The MOL work in partnership with the employer to achieve this goal.

What Can Employers do to Help?

The Ministry of Labour is doing its part to protect young workers, but it is not just up to them. Employers and young workers themselves must also do their part to work safe. In order to be an active participant in the health and safety of young workers, employers should consider the following when hiring young and new workers:

  1. Ensure student workers receive proper orientation, job-specific training, and general health and safety awareness training. 

All new workers should receive orientation training as part of the hiring process. Orientation training should include general health and safety awareness and outline job-specific hazards. Additionally, specific training for new job tasks, machinery, or hazardous materials needs to be provided. You may even consider a mentorship program – it’s beneficial for both mentor and mentee!

2. Ensure that you are well informed about minimum wages, student wages, and appropriate pay legislation in your province. 

Provincial minimum wages vary, as does other pay legislation. As an employer, knowing what legislation applies to you, and then following it, is an important part of ensuring young worker safety.

3. Be aware of different minimum age requirements in different industries and jurisdictions.

As with wages, every province has different legislation with regard to minimum working age requirements, especially in higher risk sectors such as, construction, shipping and receiving, and in establishments where alcohol is served and consumed.

What can Young Workers do to Help?

Young workers also play a role in their safety, and it is important that they know they have the right to participate, the right to know, and the right to refuse unsafe work under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations. This message needs to be part of orientation training for all new hires. There are ways that young workers can participate in their own safety:

  • Ask questions
  • Ask for training
  • Ask for help if you aren’t sure
  • Seek clarification on instructions if required
  • Wear supplied PPE, as instructed
  • Don’t take short cuts
  • Don’t use equipment you’ve never operated before without training
  • Exercise your rights without fear of reprisal

For more information on how health and safety and training and education can prevent injury and illness in the workplace, please call us at 800.815-8890 to talk to one of our Health & Safety reps or view our health and safety courses now!

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