Young workers – defined by Statistics Canada as between 15 to 24 years old – and new workers – those either starting a second career or new Canadians who have less than six months on the job or are new to a task– are the most likely to be involved in an accident on a construction site.
In 2010, 31,000 young workers suffered injuries at work and most tragically, 23 young people were killed at work. Every hour of every single day in Canada, 4 or 5 young workers are injured at work, badly enough to book off.
Between 2006 and 2010, 34 young workers died in work-related incidents, according to Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) statistics. During the same time period, more than 46,000 young workers received injuries resulting in lost time at work.
There are many reasons for this ranging from inexperience, poor training, and inadequate supervision to the inherent nature of the workers themselves who may be either more risk tolerant or be more likely to accept and bear risk because they wanted acceptance.
Preventing accidents among this demographic requires a combination of approaches which blend technology-driven training programs with face-to-face mentoring. It must also address the leadership training of direct field supervisors and the behavioural nature of young people.
These concepts are:
- Knowledge (training, orientation, legal)
- Leadership (transformational leadership through training)
- Culture (everyone is responsible for safety, everyone goes home)
- Empowerment (the right to say no, the right to ask questions without fear)
Among the best practices identified (above and beyond legal requirements for orientation, training and certification):
- An onsite mentoring program which identifies new workers with a “green hand sticker” and volunteer experienced workers with a “gold hand” sticker (CSABC) where young workers are not stigmatized for asking questions and are not offended when experienced workers step in to offer instruction.
- A program to train supervisors in leadership in contrast to management.
- A concept to train supervisors to recognize higher risk personality traits and to work with groups to contain and mitigate those tendencies.
- An online program which identifies risks associated with a particular job task or construction sector which then walks the trainee through them and requires them to answer questions to demonstrate learning.
- Trades-led and school-partnered internship training programs in high schools which identify students thinking about careers in construction and begin with safety training programs (Ontario, Alberta, BC).
- Specific young worker and new worker orientation and training programs.
- Certificate program recognition for safety related behaviours.
- Sector specific (roofing, electrical etc.) training programs for targeted workers.
Safety awareness is a function of age, experience, training and personality which is mitigated by the effect of knowledge, leadership, culture and empowerment.
Safety training and reinforcement is not only a basic legal requirement in all jurisdictions across Canada, it is also a moral requirement and imperative, as Jeffery Lyth, CRSP, CHSC Safety Advisor/Regional Safety Coordinator at the BCCSA notes, citing the safety sector mantra: “Everyone goes home safely.”
In traveling to China to give presentations at conferences on risks posed by large cohorts of migrant workers he notes:
“Marginalized workers include migrant workers and new and young workers and the risks are higher globally for this group no matter what the culture.”
He argues that the unique combination of the regulatory and insurance agencies in B.C. gives health and safety legislation, investigation and enforcement more power and reach.
All jurisdictions across Canada have minimum basic requirement for worker training. Some are mandatory; few are geared specifically to young workers.
Some have online programs which identify specific hazards and risks associated with specific jobs and jobsites. Some involve certification to establish a baseline of knowledge and awareness.
The Construction Safety Association of Ontario maps out requirements under Section 27 of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and offers tips:
1) Give the new worker a copy of the company health and safety policy.
2) Explain the project and the worker’s duties.
3) Alert the worker to any hazards on site and the protective measures required.
4) Explain requirements for personal protective equipment.
5) Outline procedures for emergencies and accident reporting.
6) Show the worker where to find first aid kit, fire extinguishers, and other emergency equipment.
7) Introduce the new worker to his or her supervisor.
8) Show the new worker around the site.