Injury risk higher among new workers
While young workers are busy thinking about starting new summer jobs and others are rejoining the workforce, they may not realize that their “newness” to the world of work could be hazardous to their health. Research from the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) reveals that new workers in the first month on the job have more than three times the risk of a lost-time injury as workers with more than a year’s experience on the job.
According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), in 2017, there were 31,441 accepted lost time claims by young workers (aged 15 to 24) in Canada, and 23 died from work-related injuries or illnesses. Workers, parents and employers all have a shared responsibility for health and safety.
As a parent, when you see your teenager off to his or her new summer job, take the time to talk with them about their work as well as precautions that can help ensure they come home healthy and safe. Perhaps share some of the safe work practices from your own workplace. As an employer, you have the responsibility to create and foster a safe and healthy work environment and to protect the health and safety of all your workers. You need to ensure you have a comprehensive orientation program and upon hire, you communicate health and safety roles and responsibilities. This sets the tone for the workplace and ensures that workers are starting on safe footing.
New workers are different from young workers in that they are not necessarily entering the workforce for the first time. They could be returning to work after an absence such as maternity leave or an injury, and it’s possible that conditions and procedures have changed. Or they could be working for the same company, but in a new role or location. As a result they may be facing new hazards for which they are not prepared or adequately trained. These workers should also undergo the orientation program and have an opportunity to review and discuss their return to work, ask any questions and receive appropriate training.
All workers need to know their rights. These include the right to know what hazards are present on the job and how to protect themselves, the right to participate in keeping their workplace healthy and safe and a right to report unsafe conditions and practices. They also have the right to refuse dangerous or unsafe work, making sure to follow specific procedures when doing so.
Timely and effective training is essential when starting a new job. The IWH study showed that just one in five workers in Canada received safety training in their first year with a new employer. Learning on the job, or waiting several months for a classroom course, are not good options.
Effective training methods include:
- Hands-on or simulation training (before starting the actual work).
- Mentoring by experienced workers
- Apprentice programs
- Written procedures which are clear and concise
- Practice time and opportunity to ask questions and obtain feedback
- Programs written in an active voice with clear instructions
- Grouping equipment or tasks with similar functions
- When you are at your job interview, keep an eye out for signs that the employer takes safety seriously. Look for warning signs in hazardous areas, employees wearing protective equipment, safety posters, etc.
As a new worker, you may have questions about your work. If you are unsure of anything, always ask your employer or supervisor to go over any procedures or practices until you feel comfortable proceeding. Seek feedback from your supervisor or instructor to make sure you are performing the tasks correctly. Make sure that you have been properly fitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) and shown how to wear it, clean it, and store it properly.
Here are some other suggestions for workers to consider for a healthy and safe work environment.
- Ask experienced employees and/or your supervisor about workplace hazards
- Know what to do in an emergency situation, such as a fire alarm or power failure
- Ask for a copy of the health and safety rules, if you aren’t given one
- Follow all safety precautions
- Report any accidents or unsafe conditions to your supervisor immediately
- Be a safety leader and walk the talk
- Develop a comprehensive health and safety program.
- Work with your health and safety representative and/or committee to identify and control hazards
- Assign suitable work. Avoid assigning jobs to inexperienced workers that require long training times, a great deal of responsibility, critical or risky tasks, or working alone
- Instruct workers not to perform any task until they have been properly trained
- Provide detailed training on equipment, safety features, and control systems
- Communicate with the worker about the job tasks clearly and frequently, repeating and confirming this training over the first few weeks of work
- Encourage workers to think in a safety-minded way about all of their work. Tell workers that if they don’t know or are unsure about something, to ask someone first.
- Train workers on what do in case of fire, injury, or other emergency
Whether you are a young or new worker; retraining or re-joining the workforce, you must be properly trained and prepared for the job at hand. Everyone in the workplace has a role to play in making sure we all stay on safe footing.