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|Print Focus Report
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"I don't think any parent wants to get that phone call in the middle of the night ...saying they're not going to tell you what his condition is, but you'd better get down there."
Kate Rowbottom speaks to the horror parents feel when faced with the news of their child being severely injured at work. Tragically, she's speaking from experience. Her son, Michael Lovett, lost his leg in a sawmill accident when he was 18. Her words bring home the pain associated with almost losing a loved one to a workplace accident. But her story, though deeply personal, is not unique. Too many families, friends, co-workers and employers have similar stories of young workers they care about being injured or killed on the job.
But why single out young workers? Aren't all worker injuries just as significant?
Certainly, but there are important reasons to direct our attention specifically to the prevention of young worker injuries.
Watch Alex's Story
Alex, a young manufacturing worker, didn't know his workplace health and safety rights and was afraid to ask questions. This short video depicts Alex as a typical young worker in B.C. and uses his story to highlight the need to focus on reducing young worker injuries. This is one of a series of resources which make up the Young Worker Focus Report.
At WorkSafeBC, we dedicate significant time and resources to young worker injury prevention because:
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation defines "young worker" as any worker under 25 years of age. There are more than 350,000 workers between the ages of 15 and 24 in B.C. Some are high-school, college, or university students working part-time during school and full-time over the summer; others work full-time, often in entry-level jobs. They work in fast food outlets, in retail stores, on construction sites, on forestry sites, and in a range of other workplaces. While the work varies, they have one thing in common: they are at high risk for a workplace injury.
There is a popular misconception that young workers incur many injuries at work because of their risk-taking behaviour and sense of invincibility. Today, researchers believe young workers are more at risk because they lack the experience of their peers, they often work in environments with more hazards, and they frequently engage in more physical work than their older counterparts. Some may not have the training and orientation needed to work safely.
A recent study by Curtis Breslin, a leading Canadian researcher in safety and youth behaviour, finds that personal factors like age, gender, and personality (what we normally blame for risk-taking behaviour) are not associated with higher injury rates. In fact, higher injury rates are more directly attributable to job and workplace factors---working with more hazards, perceived work overload, lack of training and supervision.
Another study, 'Newness' and the risk of occupational injury, cites "newness"---that is, being a novice on the job and unfamiliar with the work or hazards---as a contributing factor to increased risk of occupational injury.
It's not only B.C. reporting a higher rate of injury among its young workers. In fact, jurisdictions worldwide cite a similar problem. Many are studying the issue and identifying strategies to reduce young worker injuries.
Research conducted by the International Social Security Association's Section on Education and Training for Prevention (a body committed to "make every person more aware of risks they are likely to encounter and to enable them to participate in the prevention of accidents") has resulted in WorkSafeBC's adoption of the Québec City Protocol, the Berlin Declaration, and the Lisbon Charter. Together, these documents share and promote best practices in health and safety education and training for youth. They highlight a system that focuses on educating youth about health and safety prevention from an early age, making training related to occupational health and safety readily available, and providing ongoing support and coaching for young adults in their first jobs.
WorkSafeBC's young worker safety resources and initiatives are consistent with this approach. Through print, multimedia, and speaking programs, WorkSafeBC brings health and safety training and awareness into the school system. It puts regulatory resources as well as learning and awareness tools into the hands of teachers, parents, employers, youth and community leaders, and others who influence youth in society.
|Young worker orientation and training (look for the "Employers & Supervisors" section of the Young Worker page at WorkSafeBC.com)|
|Emerging Research on Young Workers (Young Worker Focus Report section on emerging research about youth in the workplace, which includes research on job nature, how youth view work, cognitive development, and perception on risk taking; available through the WorkSafeBC Young Worker portal)|