Safety for summer students

If only my son's first job was serving up gelato at a local shop

Safety for summer students

My son headed off to his first day on the job today. Typical mother, I’m both excited and worried for him.

Excited because it’s his first paid job and it’s working outdoors at a marina, so he’s thrilled to be spending his summer this way. He’s very comfortable around the water and boats, having cottaged all his life, along with enjoying summer camps.

I’m also excited for him to learn about what a job entails, the responsibilities, the teamwork, the decision-making, the rules — all of it. And I’m excited for him to meet new people, and to gain greater confidence.

But the worries, they’re definitely there, keeping me up at night. Because of the risks involved: This is a job that requires steel-toed boots and a G2 license (for golf carts) and First Aid certification.

He will also be helping out gassing up boats.

Now I realize this may not be considered a safety-sensitive position with extreme risks such as those found in construction or oil and gas, for example. But having covered HR since my son was born 18 years ago, I’m all too familiar with the awful news reports about workplace accidents, on a daily basis — especially when it comes to younger workers.

Last fall, British Columbia brought in changes to the Employment Standards Act to better protect young people at work. Similar rules came into play in Alberta and Manitoba in 2018.

The stats don’t ease my worries:

  • Only one in five young employees in Canada reported having any safety training on the job, according to the Institute of Work and Health.
  • In Canada, more than half of serious and fatal workplace accidents involving young workers aged 15 to 25 take place within the first six months on the job. Nearly 20 per cent occur during the first month, according to the Canadian Federation for Independent Business.
  • While young workers make up only 13 per cent of the workforce, they account for about 16 per cent of all allowed schedule 1 WSIB lost-time injury claims, according to the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association.

Too often we hear about employers that fail to provider the proper training when it comes to workplace safety – especially for new or younger employees.

Whether it’s lack of resources or lack of concern, the safety side of a job is often neglected. People are in a rush, the rules are a burden or things are just done the way they always have been.

Of course, another big issue is newcomers who are afraid to speak up, worried they will appear foolish or should know better.

“If you’re unsure about something or don’t know if it’s safe, DON’T DO IT,” I texted my son this morning before he headed out. “It’s better to look stupid or be embarrassed than to injure yourself.”

I’m not sure he cared or truly grasped what I was saying, but I still had to say it.

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