13th September 2021
New and Young Workers became a topic of interest for Rama Altaleb, a summer student who held a position with Carbon Safety recently. Rama was interested in how safety applies to these workers (herself included) who are entering the workforce. Rama volunteered to write this month’s blog post. She has graduated high school and will be starting her first year of university at VIU, hoping to start a career in the medical profession. Please see Rama’s blog post below.
I am sure that we all have felt grief when we’ve heard a story involving someone getting seriously injured, or worse, someone we know. Consequences can also be worse where someone has died due to a workplace accident, especially when it comes to a young worker. But have we ever considered that we could be next?
WorkSafeBC (WSBC) defines “New worker” as any worker who is new to the workplace or the hazards of the workplace; ”Young worker” is any worker under the age of 25.
For the interests of this blog post I will focus on young workers, however new workers are also at risk of workplace injuries due to a number of factors.
There are more than 250,000 workers in British Columbia, ranging in age from 15 to 24. Many are high school, college, or university students who hold part-time jobs while attending school and who take on full-time jobs during summer months. They work in many areas – from fast food and retail clothing to construction and delivery drivers. These people have one thing in common: they are at high risk of being severely injured on the job.
There are countless reasons teenagers enter the workforce, despite the potential health and safety risks. Some of these include:
According to WorkSafeBC, young workers have more injuries than any other age group in British Columbia:
It is reasonable to expect that some of these numbers are even higher but haven’t been reported.
Some reasons include:
A quote by Jack Thomas, a young worker who experienced a terrible accident: “I always used to be one of those people that thinks it’s going to happen to somebody else, not myself. That’s not true at all.”
Statistics Canada identified accidents as the number one leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 to 24. There were 629 deaths in 2019 alone. The second leading cause of death for young people in 2019 of the same age was self harm (suicide) with 506 deaths.
If you are wondering how this is related to young workers, here is my explanation: Young workers are still developing physically and mentally. If a safe and healthy work environment for new and young workers has not been maintained, accident rates increase, therefore accident fatality rates may also increase. The mental health of young workers who work in a stressful work environment may also be negatively be affected, potentially increasing the likelihood of young workers to have mental health issues, and, in extreme cases, increase risk of self harm and suicide.
Preventive measures have more value than reactive measures. “precautions should be taken before and not after”
Injuries are preventable in most workplaces. Employers are responsible for ensuring a safe work environment for all workers.
Some basic steps the employers can take to reduce the likelihood of injuries to young workers are:
WSBC OHS Regulation, section 3.23 Young or New Workers Orientation and Training states: The employer has the legal responsibility to ensure that young and new workers are given health and safety orientation and training.
As a young worker, I have the right to prioritize my mental and physical health and refuse any unsafe work. However, we also are responsible to follow some steps to help us reduce the likelihood of injuries:
Any accident has the potential to impact someone’s life, and even future. Never think, “it’s gonna happen to somebody else, not me.” You could be next!
Posted in: Safety Blog