Young Workers - Do they know their rights?

It's always an exciting time: welcoming and educating a new generation of young workers to the workforce and passing down your skills and knowledge to help them advance in life. As you're going through the orientation process, however, do not forget to remind them of their basic rights as workers:

  • Right to Know: the right to know about hazards in the workplace and how to deal with them.
  • Right to Participate: the right to participate in making the workplace safe.
  • Right to Refuse: the right to refuse unsafe work.

Due to the fact that young workers (aged 14 to 25 years) most often engage in seasonal, part-time, or temporary work, employers may sometimes neglect to inform them of these rights, but out of all the age groups in our existing workforce, they are the ones who need to know this the most. Studies have shown that young workers are more likely to suffer injuries due to inexperience, and most often, are less likely to ask questions out of fear or intimidation.

If you hire young workers for the summer, teach them the importance of workplace safety and empower them to ask questions. Follow these tips:

  • Provide safety orientations before they begin working, whether they are new or returning young workers. Make sure to include First Aid and emergency procedures.
  • Take time to explain the job. Workers learn in different ways, so try a combination of talking and hands-on learning.
  • Take them on a guided tour of the worksite, and introduce them to key safety people in your organization (i.e. a Health and Safety Manager, or your Occupational Health and Safety Committee members).
  • Make sure they are aware of any workplace hazards, and how and to whom they must report new hazards.
  • Educate them on safe work practices and company procedures, including hazard identification and proper use of PPE. Many young workers may not have used - or seen - PPE before.
  • Inform them of their worker rights and responsibilities. Are they aware that they can refuse unsafe work? Do they know they can report any unsafe work practices?
  • Pair young workers with experienced and safety-conscious workers, and continue to regularly monitor their work.
  • Teach or remind them about the Internal Responsibility System (IRS): workplace safety is everyone's responsibility.
  • Make health and safety a part of all workplace communications.

Employers, remember that Section 14 of the new OHS Regulations speaks to where a young person cannot work.