Young Workers in the Workplace

Young workers are great employees and are eager and keen to work. And while they are excited to start working, their appreciation and knowledge of workplace safety may be limited. Students receive basic safety training in school prior to an internship placement but they may not always understand why workplace safety is so important and what roles they and the employer play.

For many young workers it could be their first job or a completely different job than they had before. Being keen and excited to work, they are often quick to act, willing to take on new projects, and want to proof that they can handle their new job. Unfortunately, that eagerness can get in the way of being safe and taking the time to identify unsafe situations. Being new to the workforce, they may not feel comfortable asking questions or raise their concerns about safety.

CAREERS’ Safe Under 18 initiative facilitates youth and employer safety awareness but is not meant to be a full safety program. The following information is meant to be high-level information in addition to an employer’s safety program.

Setting a Safety Culture

Unsure if they can speak up, an employer may not know until it’s too late. It is therefore up to the employer to make sure youth feel comfortable bringing up their concerns, take the time to assess what they are doing, and ask questions. To build safety awareness and confidence with young workers, and employer can take these basic steps:

  • Inform and train them about potential hazards and show them how to stay safe.
  • Show them what safety equipment and gear is required and how it works. Make sure PPE fits properly.
  • Inform and train them on safety rules and safe work procedures. Safety should be part of all orientation sessions.
  • Initiate and actively foster safety conversations and make them a daily routine.
  • Ensure you meet all Alberta’s Labor Standards: ensuring training, preventing violence, WHMIS, safely working alone – they’re all the law.

Supervisors

Supervisors play a crucial role in making sure youth understand the importance of safe behavior in the workplace. The following is taken from Work Safe for Life, WCB of Nova Scotia

Creating a safe workplace takes more than a handout at your staff meeting. Employers need to work with their supervisors to show and practice ongoing commitment.

  • Train, train, train.
    Invest the time up front on job-specific safety training. Your workers should know what can hurt them, and how to avoid it. Of course, they also need to know emergency procedures.
  • Talk about your policy and your program in plain language.
    Say things like “If you see something dangerous, tell me about it.” or “Any time you feel unsafe, make sure you tell me, no matter what. Your safety comes first.”
  • Make safety a part of service.  
    Young workers often feel the need to impress, and with work and time pressures they’ll sometimes take short cuts, like chopping food too quickly, moving too many grocery carts or climbing shelving instead of using a ladder. Good service includes time for safety. Doing otherwise means injuries for workers and costs for employers.
  • WHMIS
    Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System training is mandatory for jobs involving chemicals and other hazardous materials.
  • Have a buddy system.
    Pair young workers with experienced workers. This can help them feel comfortable asking questions.
  • Make safety a priority yourself.
    To a generation raised on TV and music videos, what they see matters as much as what they hear. So set the example, wear your hardhat, buckle up in the company truck, talk about safety at every meeting. Little things matter.

Remember, keeping your people safe at work is your job. So start the conversation about workplace safety.