Blog Post #1062 – Dying to work: We should protect our young

Original Report by: Buzz Hargrove

David Ellis, an 18-year-old student from Burlington, Ont., became entangled in a commercial dough mixer in a bakery. He died on Feb. 17, 1999. It was his second day on a job that was to last only three weeks.

At almost the same time, 19-year-old Tilbury worker Jared Dietrich died on his second day on the job because there was no proper guarding on his machine.

Ivan Golyashov, 16, was killed in a similar accident to David’s, in an unguarded dough maker in a Toronto bakery.

Steve MacDonald, 20, was killed three months after Ivan when he became entangled in a metal lathe in Milton.

Increasing numbers of young workers across Canada are being killed or injured on the job as a result of failure on the part of governments and employers to provide adequate health and safety training and education. Add to this neglect machinery that isn’t properly safeguarded and you have a recipe for the kind of tragedies that are all the more disturbing because they are preventable.

Why is there so much interest in tax cuts — mostly for the wealthy — when there aren’t enough inspectors to monitor even 1 per cent of the workplaces where our young are losing their lives or becoming disabled? How many more will die before governments and employers take action to prevent these senseless losses?

Most workplace deaths among young people in the past 10 years across Canada have been in non-union environments. As Maureen Shaw, president of the Industrial Accident Prevention Association, rightly pointed out to The Globe and Mail recently, “If they [young workers] ask questions or refuse to do something unsafe, they’ll lose their job.” This risk is often true in non-union situations. But most workers in Canada have no union to protect them if they stand up for their rights, so who will take on the responsibility to keep young workers safe?

Our children have been cared for by their parents or caregivers since they were small. We taught them to be careful crossing the street and to wear seat belts. When they went to school, their teachers explained the need to be cautious with sharp objects and to be wary of strangers. Why should this education and training stop at the workplace door, one of the most dangerous places in Canada? Even the fast-food industry, where so many of our young people work, is dangerous. Hot fat (almost synonymous with fast food) burns and disfigures many young workers.

In all federal and provincial legislation in this country, employers are obliged to provide a healthy and safe workplace and to provide education, training and instruction to workers in safe work procedures. Why is this legislation not specific enough to be enforced, especially for young workers?

We need specific legislation requiring employers to provide education and training for at least two weeks before any person new to the workplace, especially a young person, is allowed to work. Many of the young workers killed in the past 10 years in Canada died within the first two weeks on the job. Wouldn’t it be better if they were trained properly? And we need specific legislation to ensure that any worker who begins a new job or new duties within a workplace gets enough education and training so they clearly understand the job’s hazards.

My opinion

The David Ellis story was one of my first blog entries (post #24) and it is still a bone of contention on the worksite. Young people are leaving school and some are joining the workforce right away. They ask two important questions: 1) How much am I receiving per hour, and 2) how many hours am I working?

They should be taught that to recognize hazards in the workplace and know all their rights and responsibilities under the law. Section 43 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which covers “Work Refusal” should be discussed in great detail.

Section 50 should also be discussed right after section 43. Section 50, subsection 1 of the OHSA covers worker protection under certain conditions. It states,

1) “No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall,

(a) dismiss or threaten to dismiss a worker;

(b) discipline or suspend or threaten to discipline or suspend a worker;

(c) impose any penalty upon a worker; or

(d) intimidate or coerce a worker,

because the worker has acted in compliance with this Act or the regulations or an order made thereunder, has sought the enforcement of this Act or the regulations or has given evidence in a proceeding in respect of the enforcement of this Act or the regulations or in an inquest under the Coroners Act.”

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

We can also be reached at 

Ensure your workplace is a safe place.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

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

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal

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


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