Telling stories, learning lessons online

Web site aims to educate young workers about dangers in the workplace
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/13/2003

G

etting young workers to care about health and safety can be one of the biggest hurdles in creating a healthy workplace. Summer students and young graduates are so nervous and excited about the first day on the job and earning a paycheque that health and safety concerns are often the furthest thing from their minds.

But a new Web site hopes to educate young workers about the dangers in every workplace, and what their rights and responsibilities are. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has worked with youth from across the country to build Job One (http://job-one.ccohs.ca), a site designed to attract youth and teach them about health and safety.

Jan Chappel, inquiries and chemical information officer for CCOHS, spearheaded the effort to create a site that linked all of the youth information from various jurisdictions across Canada in one place.

The site is aimed at the 16 to 25 age group. It features information on hours of work and wages, real stories of young workers who have had accidents, as well as games and quizzes. It also has information on occupational health and safety laws in different jurisdictions and what to do if injured in the workplace. The true-life stories, in particular, have proven to be a popular part of the site.

“There’s a whole section on real stories of things that we found on the Web,” said Chappel. “Most of them are written by the youth, the person that was hurt, or if they happened to have died, written by a parent, sibling or friend.”

There’s also information about what could have prevented the accidents, something Kerilyn Molinski, the Manitoba representative on the youth committee that helped brainstorm the site, said is key.

“If someone was killed in a workplace, and you have the family talking about their loss and so forth, that’s very powerful,” said Molinski, who is also a safety education consultant with the Workers of Tomorrow Safety Centre, a non-profit group that educates students about health and safety. “But what needs to be paired with that is what’s the next step. What should have been done differently to prevent it, and how can I apply that to my own life? That’s interesting for youth because it’s the whole curiosity thing — like ‘How did this happen?’ and ‘Oh my god I can’t believe this happened’ and turning that into ‘Well, this could have been done differently.’”

Molinski is excited about the site and thinks it is an indispensable tool for young workers.

“You know, youth pay so much attention to getting that job and making their first paycheque — and that’s really important and that’s a part of your life journey and having that experience is very significant — but they have to be aware of safety issues,” she said.

“For young people, much of the thinking is that this is something that can never happen to me,” she said. “But it happens all the time. Young people are dying and being injured. So helping them to see that it might happen, that it could happen to you, or maybe your buddy or your sister, can go a long way in raising awareness.”

She said a Web site is one of the best means to get the message out, but the information has to be solid and interesting for it to work.

“Youth talk amongst each other about what types of Web sites they visit,” said Molinski. “They say, ‘Hey, Tommy. I visited this really cool Web site last night and you should check it out.’ If there is stuff out there they like, they’ll pass that information on to their friends, so we’re relying a lot on word-of-mouth to get the message out.”

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