Luis Hernandez felt fortunate to land a job as a maintenance worker at a fast-service restaurant just three weeks after arriving in Canada. And while he acknowledges that his first employer did a lot of things right to keep him safe, more could have been done. But because Luis was new to the country he didn't feel it was his place to offer suggestions.*
With a new and young worker inspection blitz just getting underway, WSPS eNews spoke with Luis about his experience as a new worker. We also asked WSPS safety expert Rodola Sibuma what she would suggest for employers of new and young workers.
"The first thing," says Rodola, "is to be clear that the inspection blitz is not about being a new or young worker. It’s about what employers have in place to keep these workers safe." That's because new and young workers are the most likely group to sustain a serious injury or even death. Often these workers don't have the knowledge, experience or confidence to recognize hazards and ask questions.
"The second thing," continues Rodola, "is that even though the blitz ends August 31 the need to protect these workers never stops. Employers may hire new and young workers at any point in the year."
Rodola has five suggestions to help you keep your young and new workers safe. But first, here's what we learned from Luis about that first full-time job. Here's what his employer appeared to have done well:
- put him through rigorous week-long training before allowing him to perform potentially hazardous tasks on his own
- used training tools that Luis could understand (e.g., print materials with simple language, graphic depictions, and sequential numbering of tasks).
- demonstrated how to perform tasks safely and then observed Luis performing them
- provided appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Among his tasks, Luis had to clean hot grills and handle hot oil.
Luis' story also revealed two ways in which the employer could have done better:
- encourage suggestions on how to work more safely. While Luis readily shared with us an administrative and an engineering solution to a hot oil hazard - "It would be safer and more efficient if changing the oil was performed automatically" - he didn't feel he was in a position to discuss this with the employer.
- emphasize safety over production. One task in particular had to be performed quickly. "You're multi-tasking and have to finish the job by a certain time so other employees can start cooking," explained Luis. He would have felt safer with more time to do it.
And the moral of Luis' story? A familiar truism for health and safety. If you are looking to improve how things are done, ask someone doing the job.
What Rodola suggests
If you expect to hire new and young workers, then:
- ensure all required safety policies and procedures are already in place,
- provide new and young workers with thorough orientation and hazard-specific training, then coach as needed,
- ensure your supervisors know the laws, regulations and hazards, and have the training and experience to help employees work safely,
- engage your joint health and safety committee (JHSC); JHSC members know who's new, and can provide coaching support,
- conduct your own blitz inspection; look at your workplace through an inspector's eyes, ask new and young employees questions that an inspector might ask, fill in any gaps in their awareness or understanding, and don't forget to ask for suggestions.
How WSPS can help
Make your orientation program the best it can be with WSPS orientation training resources.
Check out all of our vulnerable worker resources, including downloads, training and consulting services.
* To protect the worker's privacy, we have used a pseudonym.