30th July 2012
This week my blog is around young workers and their safety at work. Here at MIGAS we spend a lot of time on inducting and mentoring our new apprentices and trainees to ensure they have the highest safety knowledge they can as a new worker. We conduct regular checks of the workplace they are working in and speak to all of our apprentices at every visit around safety concerns and how they are doing at work.
Our cohort of employees tends to be the most adventurous type around; young males, 18 to 24, and bullet proof. They are inherent risk takers and are, in most cases, “short-cutters”, so you can see why we spend a lot of time reminding our apprentices to be safe. The short cut is not always the safe cut.
So why is it that young workers, and in our case apprentices, get hurt at work?
- Enthusiasm. These apprentices really want to please and impress bosses and co-workers and to do a good job. The apprentices don’t want to ask for help or appear to be hesitant to do what is asked of them – they want to be mature and good work contributors.
- Inexperience. Some apprentices seem unaware of the power of the equipment they use and the potential for injuries. “David didn’t realise how powerful the drill was.” “James thought that if he just struck an arc really quickly from a welder to get the job done, it wouldn’t hurt his eyes.”
- Lack of training. Being properly trained on a piece of equipment is vitally important. Apprentices and trainees must receive basic safety practices and procedures, such as lock out/tag out.
- Working alone. An inexperienced worker should never be left themselves. Gain confidence in their abilities and build up a relationship before letting them loose to work by themselves. This goes doubly for apprentices who are working around electricity… they should never be left alone, unless everyone is absolutely clear that the power is off.
We now know some of the reasons why younger workers get hurt at their new jobs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a responsibility for their own safety. So, let’s look at that side of the equation and then we’ll look at what we can do as employers to help young people stay safe in their jobs.
Young workers need to be aware of:
- “What you don’t know can hurt you” – there are hazards in every workplace and you (the young and inexperienced worker) are especially at risk. So, ask lots of questions and if it doesn’t feel safe, ask more questions until you feel safe.
- “What you do know can save your life” – you need to be able to identify the hazards in your workplace.
- The Law protects – you have the legal right to protect your health and safety.
- The Law expects – your employer, your supervisor(s), and you all have legal responsibilities to make sure the workplace is healthy and safe.
- You can expect – your employer and your supervisor must ensure you have the information or required training and equipment you need to protect yourself.
- You must report – if you are injured or become sick at the workplace, you must report it to your supervisor.
Employers need to be aware of:
As an employer of a young person, it’s a great idea to do an assessment of your workplace to ensure it is safe for an inexperienced worker. That doesn’t mean you have to make a heap of changes or do anything really special, unless you identify a hazard where a young person, or any person, might be hurt.
Before employing a young person, your health and safety risk assessment must take these specific factors into account:
- the fitting-out and layout of the workplace and the particular site where they will work;
- the nature of any physical, biological and chemical agents they will be exposed to, for how long and to what extent;
- what types of work equipment will be used and how this will be handled;
- how the work and processes involved are organised;
- the level of health and safety training given to young people; and
- any risks from the particular agents, processes and work.
Our young people are our workforce of tomorrow and we should be teaching them the best safety habits we possibly can, not only for their protection, but our own protection, because as they begin to become more experienced we may end up relying on them for our own safety.