After studying 19,000 young Canadian workers for self-reporting workplace injuries, three authors have come to some concerning conclusions about work environments and safety attitudes for Canada’s youth.
Nick Turner, Sean Turner, and Kevin Kelloway’s study has revealed that — between the ages of 15 and 25 — workers are both less likely to report injuries and more likely to ignore safety rules and standards. Pinpointing what causes this fear of speaking out isn’t so black and white, but Turner, Turner, and Kelloway have found that certain age groups lend themselves to less organized work environments, which may lead to less reporting and more neglect of regulations.
Consider the part-time, post-school jobs that young workers can attain during their teenage years. Teenagers often work on the outskirts of industry in environments like homes and yards, doing work like babysitting or landscaping. These activities can seem relatively harmless by industrial standards. After all: where is the hazardous material? What about the large machinery with hundreds of moving parts? It’s not as easy to worry about getting hurt in someone else’s home as it is about getting hurt while navigating scaffolds.
That “small-job” environment induces more lenient attitudes toward the myriad hazards that exist in any line of work. Because there is no standardization or managerial organization, these jobs tend to produce what the authors call “micro-accidents,” which are injuries like bruises and burns.
But we can’t look at micro-accidents as just micro-accidents. The gap between a micro-accident and a hospital-visit is not much, as they can “derive from the same event or set of conditions,” according to Turner.
This fringe work can be just as dangerous as industrial work. Therefore, inspiring an emphasis on strong safety support in young workers is imperative to their adoption of and enthusiasm towards safety standards as they mature in the workplace.
For young workers it all seems to trace back to the supervisor or person in charge. A supervisor’s attitude toward safety affects the group dynamic. This includes a worker’s willingness to speak up not just about their own injuries, but about dangerous conditions that can be avoided and corrected.
Though the study will continue and follow young workers for a year (to get a better idea of all that can happen within that time frame), it still acts as a good indicator of where our priorities should lie. Educating and protecting the working youth by breeding a more involved safety culture in our workplaces will build better industries for us all.