Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (June 2015)

Young workers are at a heightened risk of non-lost-time injuries and are less likely to speak up about dangers at work, a recent study concludes.

The study examines self-reported, non-lost-time injuries or “Micro-Accidents” involving more than 19,000 workers aged 15 to 25 across Canada over a four-week period. The report, published in the June 2015 issue of the Journal of Safety Research, found that about one third of part-time workers as young as their early teens had experienced at least one job-related injury in the last month.

“The difference between a “Micro-Accident” – with a young worker getting a treatable burn, and a young worker getting a more severe injury that would require hospitalization and may take them off work – can all derive from the same event or set of conditions,” study co-author Nick Turner, Ph.D., a professor at Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, said in a statement on April 20, 2015.

The report says the incidence of micro-accidents is the highest among workers aged 15 to 18. This demographic of workers also spoke up less frequently in the face of dangerous work situations and reported neglecting work safety rules more frequently than their older counterparts.

The study also found that young males reported the same frequency of micro-accidents as young females. But while boys indicated that they spoke up more often in dangerous work situations, they also reported neglecting work safety rules more often than girls.

Workplace hazards may be compounded by the casual nature of work performed by youth, who often work part-time, take up summer jobs or hold after-school hours, placing them on the periphery of the organizations in which they work. “Although work-related training for young workers is especially important, it is often complicated by informal work environments in which young people find themselves, such as babysitting or lawn-mowing, which nonetheless may contain hazardous work conditions,” Dr. Turner said.

While research shows that parents, siblings, friends and teachers can help promote safer work attitudes among young workers, it is the supervisors who play the most important role.

“There is an opportunity for parents and teachers to educate about work, but this doesn’t excuse the organizations and supervisors who employ them from taking responsibility for ensuring worker safety – and listening to young workers who speak about unsafe work conditions,” Dr. Turner added.

My opinion

I agree with the largest portion of this report. It allows for better protection under health and safety laws and give young workers more of a voice when reporting an unsafe or dangerous condition.

It is, however, different in most provinces.

Ontario places responsibility for Supervisors under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) section 27.

Section 27 states,

Duties of supervisor

27 (1) “A supervisor shall ensure that a worker,

(a)  works in the manner and with the protective devices, measures and procedures required by this Act and the regulations; and

(b)  uses or wears the equipment, protective devices or clothing that the worker’s employer requires to be used or worn.”

Additional duties of supervisor

(2) “Without limiting the duty imposed by subsection (1), a supervisor shall,

(a)  advise a worker of the existence of any potential or actual danger to the health or safety of the worker of which the supervisor is aware;

(b)  where so prescribed, provide a worker with written instructions as to the measures and procedures to be taken for protection of the worker; and

(c)  take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.”

The “Competent Person” definition is different across Canada. In Ontario it states,

“Competent person means a person who,

(a)  is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,

(b)  is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and

(c)  has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.”

In Alberta the first two sections are practically the same. The third part, however, is drastically different.

“Competent person means a person who,

(a)  is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance,

(b)  is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and

(c) to work unsupervised or with minimal supervision.”

Can you see the difference? In most provinces we expect the supervisor take a direct role in the safety of workers, a layered-audit, if you will. In Alberta, the supervisor has a reduced role in the day-to-day dealings with the worker.

In fact, Ontario has a definition for “Dangerous Circumstance” and allows for Certified representatives of the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC). We call it part of the Internal Responsibility System (IRS). In Alberta, the one responsibility to shut down a “Dangerous Circumstance” is the supervisor. I wonder how often that is going to happen!

There is a long way to go but at least the recognition of the problem is there. Young workers need better training and must not be afraid to have direct communication with supervision and reporting all potential hazards in the workplace.

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at info@hrsgroup.com

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Canada, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal 

CHSEP – Advanced Level
CEO & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.