Webinar: "Are You Ready for the MOL Blitz on New and Young Workers?"

Jun 18, 2012

Webinar: "Are You Ready for the MOL Blitz on New and Young Workers?"Ministry of Labour inspectors are taking a “zero tolerance” approach to certain contraventions involving new and young workers during the ministry’s four-month blitz, which began May 1.

In a 30-minute webinar broadcast by Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) last month, Ministry of Labour Provincial Specialist Roy Ford told participants that inspectors would show no mercy for contraventions involving

  • confined space
  • falls from height
  • machine guarding and lockout
  • minimum age requirements
  • personal protective equipment

The webinar, which also featured insights and suggestions from WSPS consultant Lois Weeks on training challenges and opportunities, is available for viewing at no charge on WSPS’s website. (For a link, see “How WSPS can help.”) Highlights appear below.

What makes these workers vulnerable

“Any new worker, regardless of age, is four times more likely to be injured during the first month than at any other time on that job,” said Ford. Research shows that youth often

  • lack orientation and job-specific training
  • lack supervision
  • are unaware of their rights and obligations
  • may be physically, cognitively and emotionally underdeveloped
  • underestimate the dangers associated with work, increasing the potential for injury — “the old attitude that we live forever,” said Ford.

Between 2006 and 2010, 34 workers aged 15 to 24 died in work-related incidents.

Challenges for employers

Lois Weeks noted that, regardless of the industry sector, employers consistently face the same challenges with young workers. They

  • are inexperienced and unable to identify all potential hazards
  • are smart and eager, but also have a sense of invulnerability
  • may be afraid to admit they don’t understand. “Sometimes this may not be their inability to understand, but our inability to communicate what they need to know in a way they understand,” said Weeks.
  • will copy the behaviours of older worker, whether it’s safe or unsafe

One of the implications for supervisors, said Weeks, is that these workers require “very close monitoring. They may make a small change to a procedure with the best of intentions, without realizing the potential safety consequences.”

New workers come with their own challenges. For instance, they may arrive with entrenched work habits that put themselves and others at risk. While they don’t like being treated like a newbie and want their previous experience to be respected, said Weeks, “they need to get past this and understand there’s a right way to do things.”

Among the suggestions Weeks offered webinar participants are the following:

  • make information that is new to these workers relevant. Explain why things need to be done in a particular way
  • don’t assume they know what you expect of them. Be very clear what you want done, and what success looks like
  • if you encounter language barriers,
    • use internal translators
    • translate simple documents such as written procedures, flow charts, signs and posters
    • demonstrate what the expectation is
    • use video, photos or pictograms where possible
  • partner new employees with long-term employees who have safe work habits
  • set standards for these buddies
  • provide a coaching checklist so that the buddy can ensure essentials are covered

“With all workers,” continued Weeks, “lead by example and model the behaviour you want to see.”

The webinar was presented in collaboration with the following industry organizations: Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association • Canadian Foundry Association • Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters • Greater Toronto Hotel Association • Landscape Ontario • Ontario Dairy Council • Ontario Restaurant Hotel Motel Association • Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.

“Working in partnership with these organizations provides us with a tremendous opportunity to broaden the reach of our safety messages,” says John Aird, WSPS’s manager, industry relations.

How WSPS can help