Health and Safety in the Workplace: Know Your Rights as a Young Worker
Who are young workers?
When it comes to health and safety in the workplace according to the United Nations a “youth” is a person between the ages of 15 and 24. Based on this definition, there are approximately 541 million young workers in the world today, accounting for over 15% of the global labour force.
Young workers include students who work in their spare time, apprentices, interns, young people who have finished or dropped out of compulsory education, young workers in family businesses, young employers and self-employed workers.
Why are young workers vulnerable?
Studies have shown that young workers are three times more likely than experienced workers to get injured on the job—an alarming statistic. One reason for the discrepancy between young and experienced workers is that young workers are simply less experienced. This translates to less awareness of dangers in their work environment and, not having witnessed workplace accidents, a sense of immortality. A second reason is that they are typically involved in seasonal, contract, part-time or casual work, and tend to change jobs frequently. Being new to the job they do not feel they can refuse to do what their boss tells them to do, even if they sense or know that the job is dangerous. Lacking empowerment and perhaps communications skills, they often feel that they have to accept any job or they might be fired.
What laws apply to young workers?
The laws that apply to young workers are the same as those that apply to more experienced workers. The health and safety laws that apply depend on where you work. Most workers in Canada fall under provincial or territorial regulations, but some may fall under federal regulations. Employers are required to have at their workplaces a copy of the most current applicable Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Act and Regulation.
What are the rights of workers?
Workers of all ages must know what their rights are in the workplace. And young people must know that their rights are exactly the same as their more experienced colleagues. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety notes that each and every worker has three rights:
- The right to know: All employees have a right to know what hazards are present on the job, and how these hazards can affect them. Employees should learn about the hazards they face during health and safety training sessions and through on-the-job instructions.
- The right to participate: All employees have a right to take part in health and safety activities, such as being chosen to be a health and safety representative or a member of a committee. Workers also have the right to report unsafe practices and conditions without worrying that they will lose their job or be reprimanded.
- The right to refuse dangerous work: All employees can refuse work that is dangerous to themselves or to co-workers. When refusing work, there are specific procedures that must be followed.
What are the responsibilities of workers? (Health and Safety in the Workplace)
We’ve noted that employees have rights, but they have responsibilities as well. Workers are responsible for following all safety rules, reporting any hazards that they encounter and protecting themselves. When a worker starts a job, his or her boss should let them know what their duties are, either verbally or through a written job description. It is the worker’s responsibility to fulfill those duties—to do the job they were hired to do.
Contact us today
Heartzap Safety Training and Equipment is focused on health and safety in the workplace. We offer an array of in-class and blended programs and consulting services to help keep young workers safe on the job. Contact us today to learn how our workplace safety offerings can benefit young workers and their employers.