Cash and caution – Winnipeg Free Press
Summer jobs provide fantastic opportunities to acquire specific technical skills and to learn more about teamwork and collaboration, about the importance of adhering to supervisory guidance and adhering to the rules and policies of an organization. Working students will also learn the importance of accuracy, customer service, timeliness and taking personal responsibility.
These are all important skills and lessons, but there are also several risks young people need to be aware of. Therefore, it is very important summer students are made aware of the safety precautions and protections that have been put in place by their employer.
Quite often, parents are equally as excited to see their young person move into the paid work world with a new summer job. However, I am not certain parents pay sufficient attention to understanding the type of safety issues their child may encounter or what is required by employers with respect to health and safety.
This is important because there are enough statistics to show that safety issues do arise more often with youth employment. For instance, half of the serious and fatal workplace accidents in Canada for ages 15-20 happen within the early months of employment. Young workers are four times more likely to be injured during their first month than at any other time.
Accidents can happen in any industry sector and more often for young males. For instance, one research report showed that males accounted for 63.9 per cent of all workplace incidents. Accidents in the food and beverage industry accounted for 35.4 per cent of male emergency visits and 10.2 per cent of hospital admissions. Male industry workers make up 24.6 per cent of hospital admissions. The accidents ranged from burns, crushing, amputations to electrical and eye injuries and open wounds. Finally, statistics for 2018 showed that 52 workers aged 15 to 29 died in Canadian workplaces.
So, what are the causes of these accidents? The answer is twofold. First, some youth believe they can handle anything. Some individuals hang on to the belief that nothing will happen to them because theyve heard that more people are killed in vehicle crashes than work accidents. These attitudes often lead to carelessness at work.
Another possibility is that the employer might not be as prepared for youth employment as they should be. For instance, they need to have a job description that accurately reflects the role and tasks needed for a summer worker. This is often not as complete as a full-time, year-round job. The description also needs to outline the specific tasks, time lines and skills required.
As well, during the interview process, the student needs to know there are personal safety issues that might arise. This includes the interviewer asking inappropriate questions prior to the job offer, including questions related to age, sex, religion, ancestry, sexual orientation or political beliefs. Asking these inappropriate questions leads to concerns about the organizations culture and whether it is safe from harassment and bullying.
The job description needs to be presented and reviewed with the student on Day 1. In some cases, this review, as well as the overall new employee orientation to the company, is not well done. Any lapses can lead to both personal and physical safety issues.
One of the critical elements of any orientation is to train summer students on the organizations workplace health and safety protocols. The student needs to be walked through these policies and procedures, so they are fully understood. The employer should establish a mentoring environment by assigning a more experienced employee or supervisor to ensure procedures are being followed. This can be eased up somewhat as the summer student begins to feel more confident in the job and is exhibiting correct safety precautions. At the same time, students need to know what to do if they are injured at work. Finally, supervisors must act as role models by always wearing their own safety gear and following safety procedures.
In addition, some smaller or newer employers are not sufficiently familiar with the employment standards set for youth employment in their province. This includes understanding the different restrictions for different ages. For instance, in Manitoba, a summer student under 18 cannot work alone between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. These age cohorts are also not allowed to work in forestry, saw or pulp mills, in confined spaces, in mines or open-pit quarries, or with asbestos. Therefore, management must assess each summer job to determine if any minimum age requirements apply.
In terms of other employment standards, employers need to be aware that summer students are entitled to be paid the current minimum wage. They need to have a social insurance number and they need to pay tax on their income. Summer students must adhere to the organizations human resource policies for work breaks, reporting an absence, pay days, notice of termination and the accruing of vacation time or a payout in lieu. A review of all these rules and policies should also be included in the new employee orientation.
One issue of concern is that summer students working their very first job might be reluctant to speak to their supervisor when they see a safety issue. Therefore, it is important the student is made aware of how to report a complaint and to whom. During their orientation, they should be assured that registering a complaint will not lead to their termination and that the employer is serious about looking into all complaints.
Working a summer job can be exciting and a great learning experience. Thats why so much attention needs to be placed on ensuring the work experience is a safe one. For those parents experiencing their childs first summer job, prepare a checklist for the student to take to their first day so they know what questions to ask, especially about the training and safety procedures.
Source: Occupational Injuries in Canadian Youth: An analysis of 22 years of surveillance data collected from the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, B Pratt, J. Cheeseman, C. Breslin, M.T. Do, Health Promotion and Chronic disease prevention in Canada, 2016, Safety for Summer Students, Sarah Dobson, May 11, 2022, Canadian Reporter.
Barbara J. Bowes, FCPHR, B.Ed, M.Ed, CCP is a human resource professional, author, radio personality, speaker, executive coach and workshop leader. She can be reached at [email protected]