Almost half of businesses (49%) responding to a recent survey said they don't have safety programs in place for young workers, and many (19%) don't provide orientation, onboarding, emergency or safety training.1 With an uptick in hiring young workers expected this summer as businesses resume normal activities - 66% of respondents plan to hire as many or more young workers in 2022 - these survey results are alarming.
"New and young workers face a wide variety of hazards and are three times more likely to have a lost-time injury in their first month on the job," notes WSPS Consultant Carl Bonello. "Having safety programs in place and providing effective orientation and training are is critical to keeping them safe."
"Effective" is a key word. "You have to ensure safety information is conveyed in a way that sticks," says Carl. "It's not enough to give new or young workers policies to read, and say, 'I'll come back in two hours and then you can start your job.'" Young workers are unlikely to understand or absorb much of the material.
Research conducted on behalf of WSPS reinforces the need for comprehensive orientation and training programs: injuries are five times more prevalent in workplaces with less developed health and safety plans.2
Why young workers are more likely to be injured
Workers ages 15 to 24 are more vulnerable to injury because they have limited health and safety knowledge, lack the confidence to speak up, believe they are immune to harm, and have difficulty focusing and retaining information, notes Carl. Although these workers make up only 13% of the workforce, they account for 16% of lost-time injury claims.3
Strengthen orientation and training with this 5-step plan
1. Decide who will deliver the orientation and training, and when. "Is it HR? A manager? Health and safety? Or a combination of all three?" Carl suggests carrying out the training when the business is less rushed. "Introduce workers to managers and supervisors, encourage them to ask questions, and provide a tour of the workplace."
2. Determine what your training will cover. "Imagine the young worker is your daughter or son. What would you want them to know?" Include in your list general hazards in the workplace, rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and emergency response procedures. Next, come job specific hazards. Could they get their hands get caught in machines or equipment? Could the forklift they are driving tip over? Could the chemical they are using burn them or explode? "Provide thorough training on the hazards, the safety procedures they need to follow, and the personal protective equipment required for each task." Also make sure your young workers receive online mandatory health and safety awareness training.
3. Vary your training methods. "Lecture-style training doesn't work for young people. Engage them by using videos, guest speakers, pictures, and diagrams."
4. Verify that learning has taken place. Among the options: quizzes, true or false questions, and contests.
5. Supplement training with job shadowing. "Young workers are often scared and overwhelmed," says Carl. "Matching them up with a buddy for a month who is more experienced and can coach them has been proven to reduce risks."
How WSPS can help
WSPS has a wide range of free information to help you keep young workers safe.
Guides and toolkits
- 5 ways to engage new and young workers
- What we can all do to keep young and new workers safe
- Summer safety for new and young workers
- 4 ways to support new and young workers
- New and young worker initiative: this orientation tool sets the bar
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.
1 Threads of Life (The Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support) is a charitable organization that supports the healing journey of more than 3,200 family members across Canada who have suffered from a workplace fatality, traumatic life-altering injury, or occupational disease.