Training young workers in safety basics

Job responsibilities for new employees must be vetted by HR, supervisors

To reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries of young people in the workplace, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provides some suggestions for training on its site

Assigning suitable work

Before training begins, understand what is suitable work for young people. Avoid assigning jobs that require:

•long training times or a high degree of skill;

•a great deal of responsibility;

•critical or risky tasks to be performed (working with hazardous chemicals); and

•working alone.

Before assigning work to a young worker consider these aspects of the job:

•What hazards are in the workplace around the worker?

•Are there special work situations that could lead to new risks for this worker? For example: are there risks that might be encountered outside the normal work area? Just once a week? During one task to fetch materials?

•Are there occasional risks from co-workers, such as welding or machining, which could affect workers nearby?

•In slow periods, a young worker might be asked to “help out” others. Ensure that any hazards associated with those jobs are reviewed with the young worker, by both HR and the co-worker who will supervise those tasks.

Understanding young workers

Young workers think differently than more experienced employees. Keep these facts in mind:

•Young people tend to take risks and are unrealistic about their own mortality. Take care to caution them about potential hazards and negative outcomes.

•Young people may be reluctant to ask questions for fear of appearing unknowledgeable. Make sure that they understand that their first job priority is to ask questions when they are unsure.

•Due to a lack of understanding, young workers may decide to make changes to the job in unexpected and possibly risky ways. Be sure that they are closely supervised, and stick to recognized and safe work procedures.


Communicate with the new worker about the job tasks clearly and frequently, repeating and confirming this training over the first few weeks of work. Some new workers are overwhelmed with instructions at first, and may need to hear this information repeated more than once. Also:

•Tell young workers not to perform any task until they have been properly trained.

•Tell young workers not to leave their work area unless they’ve been told to do so. Other work sites may have special hazards of which they may be unaware.

•Tell young workers that if they don’t know or if they are unsure of something, to ask someone first. Get them to think in a safety-minded way about all their work.

Steps in training

•Give the young worker clear instructions including what health and safety precautions to take.

•Have the young worker repeat your instructions and let them ask questions.

•Show them how to perform the tasks safely, repeating parts of the procedures if necessary.

•Watch the worker perform the tasks the first time, making sure to correct any mistakes.

•Allow the worker to repeat the tasks until there is comfort with the routine, and no questions remain.

•Continue to monitor the worker to make sure tasks are done properly.

Safety and protective equipment

Ensure that any young workers who must use hazardous equipment are given detailed training on safety features or control systems to operate it properly. For example, they may need to be aware that they must keep exit doors free from clutter, assure that safety guards remain on machinery or that equipment is turned off or disconnected at the end of each shift.

If young workers must wear protective equipment such as safety shoes, hard hat or gloves, be sure that they know when they need to wear protective gear, where to find it, how to use it, and how to care for it.

Emergency training

Before any work begins, young workers need to be trained for emergencies. Make sure they know what to do in case of fire, injury or other emergencies. They need to know locations of fire or emergency alarms and exits. They should also know the whereabouts of emergency showers, eyewash stations, First Aid and how to obtain medical help.


A supervisor must ensure the young worker is properly trained on all aspects of the job and safety in the workplace. A supervisor has these responsibilities:

•to be qualified by knowledge, training or experience to organize work and its performance;

•to know the laws and regulations that apply to the job; and

•to know the potential and actual hazards in the workplace.

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