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|Print Focus Report
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Imagine your boss has told you to move a heavy load of plywood from one stack to another. You're a young worker, and you have received no training on the proper operation of a forklift. What do you do? Faced with this dilemma, too many young workers imitate unsafe behaviour, take bad advice from other workers, or simply try to "figure it out" themselves.
Young workers have the right to demand proper safety and orientation training on any piece of equipment, including vehicles. In fact, it's the law! Many young workers are asked to operate commercial vehicles or mobile equipment as part of their jobs, but they lack the training and experience that more seasoned workers have.
Transportation accidents aren't just a result of pizza deliveries gone wrong; young workers may be asked to drive anything from commercial vehicles to forklifts. It is important to train young workers on any specific vehicles they will be operating. All vehicles have their own manuals, which outline safety procedures for that particular vehicle, such as whether the vehicle requires lights, the maximum lifting capacity, or the proper method of parking and storing the vehicle.
Young workers are often also young drivers. This makes them particularly vulnerable to transportation accidents. Commercial vehicles, large trucks, and mobile equipment do not react in the same ways that passenger cars do, and young workers are often unequipped to deal with new situations, such as operating large, unfamiliar equipment, driving at night, or driving close to other workers and structures. Young workers, with their new licenses and limited experience, will need extra supervision and training to overcome these risks.
Transportation accidents don't just happen to commercial drivers, taxi drivers, or anyone else who drives for a living. They can occur any time a vehicle is used, such as driving from one office to another, taking a company car to the airport, or moving a stack of plywood a few feet away. In fact, these situations can be much more dangerous, because workers may not be given training if they are expected to use the vehicle only once. However, one trip is all it takes to create an accident.
Transportation accidents can occur both inside and outside of the vehicle. Many occur when workers are crushed by runaway vehicles or fall into the path of a vehicle. When working on or around vehicles of any kind, workers must be extra cautious and aware of their surroundings in order to react quickly to emergencies or avoid dangerous situations.
A new B.C. law enacted January 1, 2010 bans the use of all electronic hand-held devices while driving. Texting, or other use of electronic devices while driving, has increasingly resulted in distracted drivers, both young and old. When drivers are distracted by texting, fiddling with the radio, or using GPS systems, they are less focused on the road and are endangering themselves and other drivers.
Banned electronic devices include hand-held cell phones, PDA devices, other hand-held electronic computing devices, and hand-held audio players (for example, MP3 players or iPods), television screens in view of the driver, and hand microphones. GPS navigation systems are allowed, but may not be operated or changed while driving. For more details about the legislation, see the BC government publication, Information on Banned and Permitted Devices and Violation Fines.
Driving while at work is a dangerous reality. Do yourself and everyone around you a favour by keeping your phone in your pocket and your iPod off, and by setting your GPS before you start to drive.
Between 2005 and 2009, there were seven young worker deaths due to motor vehicle accidents. This number accounts for 20 percent of all young worker deaths in the same time period.
The chart below shows all motor vehicle incident (MVI) claims among young workers by nature of injury.
Crashes involving new drivers also tend to be more serious. Combine those statistics with the dangerous conditions that often arise when driving for work, and it means young workers are at a heightened risk for being injured in motor vehicle accidents.
"Workers need to know how to follow standard practices and safety rules --- including telling the boss when anything gets in the way of safety. And they need to know how and when to stand up for themselves --- for the sake of their lives, and the lives of their co-workers."- Jessica Vilegenthart
As part of a summer job fighting forest fires, Jessica left home to help stop a 90,000-hectare blaze in the Northwest Territories. While patrolling a back-country road, her life suddenly changed forever. The truck she was in spun out of control and she was thrown from the vehicle. Her back was broken, and just like that, Jessica became a paraplegic.
Now five years later, Jessica attends law school at the University of Victoria and is a medal-winning wheelchair athlete. She competes all over the world as a starter on the Canadian Women's Wheelchair Basketball team.
|Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents: Young Drivers at Work (www.rospa.com)|
|BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation: Facts about Teenage Driving|
|DriveCellSafe (web site created by ICBC and the B.C. government on the dangers of using handheld cell phone while driving; www.drivecellsafe.ca)|
|Fields of Vision: Pedestrian Safety around Forklifts (video -- shows viewers how difficult it is for lift truck operators to see pedestrians; available on WorkSafeBC.com)|
|Protecting Teen Drivers: A Guidebook for State Highway Safety Offices (PDF -- guide created by Governors Highway Safety Association; www.ghsa.org)|
|Information on Banned and Permitted Devices and Violation Fines (PDF -- backgrounder on B.C.'s ban on cellphones and other electronic devices while driving)|