Youngest workers at risk of injury: CAW

10,000 young workers injured on the job each year

Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza is warning against unsafe conditions for young workers at work.

Young workers are often unaware of their rights on the job, including the right to refuse unsafe work, said Lewenza.

His warning is a response to a $350,000 fine imposed March 9 by the Ministry of Labour on the Metro Ontario grocery store chain following the death of a 17 year old worker and CAW member who died from head injuries sustained on the job. He had only been on the job for a few weeks at the time of his accident in August 2009.

Each year, as many as 10,000 young workers (defined as aged 15-24) are injured on the job and unable to return to work the next day, according to Ontario Ministry of Labour statistics. Just as many young workers file claims after requiring first aid due to workplace injuries, but are able to continue working.

"Employers are failing in their responsibility to ensure young workers are safe on the job through comprehensive health and safety training," said Lewenza. "The retail sector is a major employer in this country, but we've seen conditions gradually erode where there is much higher staff turnover due to erratic shift scheduling, limited health and safety considerations and poor wages and benefits.”

In the incident that caused his death, the young worker was helping a manager clear materials from the top of a cooler. The young worker stepped onto the drop ceiling to remove a box from the top of the cooler, as requested by the manager, and fell through the ceiling, suffering a grave head injury.

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