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If you hire new or young workers, you may receive a visit from a Ministry of Labour inspector. The ministry's sixth new or young worker safety blitz starts May 1 and continues until August 31. The goal: raise awareness of specific hazards and encourage compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations. Read on to find out more about the blitz and how to protect young workers, workers of any age newly hired or recently reassigned, and seasonal and temporary workers.

High on the list of possible inspection sites are businesses in these sectors:

  • service sector (restaurants and retail)
  • manufacturing
  • farming operations
  • film and television
  • tourism and hospitality
  • logging
  • municipalities
  • transportation.

During last year's blitz, inspectors visited 4,614 workplaces, issuing an average of three orders per visit. Anticipate as many or more visits this year.

Even if your sector's not on the list, you may still receive a visit. Inspectors have been instructed to keep new and young worker safety for proactive visits as a focal point for compliance.

On May 22, WSPS hosted a free webinar on the new and young worker blitz. The webinar will be available as a pre-recorded webinar effective June 2013.

What inspectors will be looking for

Vivien Wharton-Szatan, provincial coordinator of the ministry's Industrial Health and Safety Program, says inspectors will be checking on compliance with requirements involving

  • safety training and orientation
  • consistent, ongoing supervision
  • minimum age
  • ensuring workers have been provided with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). "It is particularly important that new and young workers be trained on and wear the right PPE."
  • policies and procedures addressing the risk of workplace violence and harassment entering the workplace
  • a working Internal Responsibility System (IRS). "As always, we want to make sure the IRS is functioning, so for example we'll be looking to ensure that, if required, there is a joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative in place."

As always, we want to make sure the IRS is functioning, so for example we'll be looking to ensure that, if required, there is a joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative in place.

Vivien Wharton-Szatan, Ministry of Labour

The scope of the issue

Every day in Ontario, nearly 50 young workers under age 25 are injured or killed on the job1. Both young and new workers are four times more likely to be injured during their first month of employment than at any other time.

"New and young workers are among our most vulnerable," says Wharton-Szatan. “They often have little workplace experience or personal knowledge of health and safety to draw from, and may be more concerned about securing or keeping a job than expressing a concern about their health and safety. This could expose them and their co-workers to potential hazards.”

How to protect these workers

Employers have within their power several easy-to-execute means of reducing risk, improving productivity, and sending new and young workers home from their shift as healthy as they were when they started it.

Put the emphasis on orientation. Strengthen your orientation program - often a weak link in a business’s overall health and safety program.

Before hiring, assess the job and its hazards. What scenarios will present risks? What tasks should be assigned to experienced workers? What language barriers will you need to address?

After hiring and before the person starts work, provide orientation training that addresses workers’ three basic rights: to know about hazards, to participate in your organization's health and safety efforts, and to refuse dangerous work. Accommodate different learning styles by delivering training in a variety of ways: in the classroom, in a simulated environment, and on the job. Hand out checklists. Assign experienced workers to engage in a buddy system.

Every subsequent day, be visible, especially during orientation and job training. Observe workers as they perform tasks. Overcome their reluctance to ask questions by asking some yourself: “Can you show me that again? Why is this control necessary?” New workers have lots to retain. Be patient, repeat instructions, coach, retrain, and offer praise - especially when workers ask questions about safety.

Invest in your supervisors. Make sure they know the laws, regulations and hazards, and have the training and experience to confidently, persistently help workers adhere to safe work procedures.

Learn from previous blitzes. Wharton-Szatan notes that, “because we don’t get to visit all workplaces when we’re targeting a particular sector, past blitz results provide actionable information for workplaces that don’t receive a visit.” The results reveal the sectors visited, the number of visits conducted and issues ordered, and the most frequently issued orders. “We find from previous blitzes that certain types of orders appear every year. This tells us that many employers could learn more from previous blitzes, and could do more to prevent injuries.” View the 2012 new and young worker blitz report.

Additional reading

How WSPS can help