Young Workers: Safety Training

Young workers

Safety training can never start early enough. Most jurisdictions have instituted training programs at the high school level which integrate and partner with local school boards.

Alberta, B.C. and Ontario structure the programs as a path toward apprenticeship. Students sign up as interns and then spend time both in class and at training centres learning basic skills. Safety training is the first class and it’s something repeated throughout the program.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local 1946 in London, Ontario, has just completed construction of their new offices and training facility and part of the curriculum will be devoted to high schoolers.

Kevin Hoy, Local 1946 coordinator said the safety training starts immediately on commencement. “Right off the start we get WMIS Fall arrest training, falls being the biggest risk, then chemical burns. Then things like scissor lift training and scaffolding and swing stage.”

The in-house training allows for a controlled environment and fewer distractions. Basic training for young and new workers seems to work best when it includes experiential learning opportunities.

“With scaffolding, which is big for us given we lost four people in a collapse in Toronto in 2009, for example, sometimes it’s better to let them make mistakes. I was watching a group of kids put up scaffolding and they were doing it wrong but we waited until the end to point it out. They weren’t happy because they had to take it all down and do it again – which was a few hours – but they’ll probably never forget the lesson,” says Hoy.

The benefit of basic training can never be over emphasized but there’s also a bigger picture to consider. Some of the key areas identified in reaching out to the young/new worker segment are leadership and behavioural modification.

According to Jeffery Lyth, CRSP, CHSC Safety Advisor/Regional Safety Coordinator at the BCCSA: “There are rules and we live in a rule based society. You may not break the rules at the job site but you might speed driving to work. The issue is that we’re really not good as a whole being complaint with the rules.”

In Lyth’s experience the danger is that safety rules can incrementally erode for a variety of reasons, among them is the misplaced belief that getting the job done faster is beneficial to the worker and the company even if it entails unsafe behaviour.

“A worker may become more compliant with rules if the crew or organization culture holds safety as an integrated value,” he says. “So that they will stop and tell the young worker that while he may have saved 15 minutes by jumping over a barrier to get somewhere it was safer to walk around. That there’s no value in risking safety for work.”

The Culture of Safety

Key to that culture of safety, Lyth argues, is leadership as opposed to management.

  • Management directs assignment and assesses quality and acceptability of completion within specified time lines.
  • Leadership demonstrates forward thinking and holistic thinking, imparts cultural values and sets a tone.

If safety is tantamount within the leadership it is a value which is better imparted to the entire organization or crew. As such, Lyth says, leadership training is an important facet of any Health and Safety program. He runs a Supervisors Bootcamp to ensure supervisors not only get the right training, they develop the right thought processes.

Some of the ideas covered in the course include advice on how to assist employers to tackle the most important and emerging issues facing business operations today such as:

  •  Greater productivity and quality outcomes;
  •  Greater safety program effectiveness;
  •  Greater protection from the risks associated with Bill 14 with bullying & harassment prevention, and psychological well-being in the workplace.

Participants are given a leadership ‘tool kit’ comprised of the simplest but most effective leadership concepts, from which they can effectively build and develop their own leadership style, specific to themselves and their environment.

They will also take self-assessment questionnaires and participate in exercises based on the actual crews they lead. Participants will leave the session with their baselines established, reference materials and course content, and specific yet practical leadership goals set for them to work towards.

Training supervisors is often overlooked, Lyth adds: “We just looked at a study which found the average manager or supervisor didn’t get leadership training until an age of 42 years old.”

Tailoring the message of safety to young workers is a critical part of safety training since young workers respond differently than older workers given their general inexperience at any workplace.


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