When it comes to summer jobs students are more likely to think about paying down their loans or saving up for a vacation than they are about safety in the workplace.
“(Students) get a summer job so they can make money to buy things. A few of them set money aside to pay for school. They aren’t necessarily focusing on the fact that their job may be unsafe,” says Steve Mahoney, chairman of the Workers Safety Board of Ontario.
“Our message is, ‘Fine, take the job to make money, just make sure health and safety is taken care of.’”
The WSIB has developed a program geared towards raising youth awareness of safety in the workplace. The Young Workers Awareness Program, which can be viewed at www.youngworker.ca, tells students what they need to know about safety, and stresses the importance of education.
According to Mahoney, young people between the ages of 18 and 24 accounted for 18 per cent of total workplace related injuries between 2001 and 2005. “People in that age group tend to feel like they are somewhat invincible. Or they don’t want to upset their employer,” he says, adding that “young people have to know that they have the right to refuse unsafe work, even if it’s just a summer job.”
When it comes to summer jobs, Mahoney stresses that young people should be aware of the type of training programs offered, and should make sure the employer goes over any safety concerns.
If the summer job involves work with or close to chemicals, students should make sure to complete the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) program.
In Young Workers Awareness Program, the WSIB has also published a pamphlet geared specifically towards parents.
“We want to remind parents of the importance of talking to kids about what they’re doing at work,” says Mahoney, adding that parents are often unaware about what their kid’s job entails.
The WSIB will launch a new ad campaign geared towards youth safety this May. The campaign will utilize the Internet, as well as bus posters, and movie spots to get the message out.
“The campaign is specifically designed to speak to young people in their own language,” says Mahoney.
“It’s about making safety top of mind in young workers.”