OHS Canada Magazine

Over 7,000 young workers injured on the job: WorkSafeBC


In 2021, WorkSafeBC reported accepting 7,125 claims related to injuries from young workers. With summer fast approaching and young workers set to enter the workforce for seasonal jobs, the exclusive insurer of workers in British Columbia cautions workers about their rights, and employers about their responsibilities.

Injuries by the numbers
As per the agency’s report, majority of the claims most likely occurred in service-sector jobs (2,801), seconded by jobs in retail and wholesale (1,335), and construction (1,258). Alarmingly, there had been 16 casualties of young workers in the last five years – all occurred in the workplace.

According to Jacqueline Holmes, Manager of Prevention Field Services at WorkSpaceBC,  majority of the serious injuries in the workplace typically occur in the first six month on the job.

“Injuries can result from inadequate training, orientation, and supervision; inexperience, or a reluctance to speak up, ask questions, and raise health and safety concerns.”  

Young ones’ right to refuse 
While risks are present in any job, young workers should be reminded of their right to refuse unsafe work if there is a reasonable cause to believe it would create an undue hazard to their health and safety. In fact, it is illegal for employers to punish or fire anyone for refusing unsafe work or reporting hazards to a supervisor.

“It is every worker’s right to refuse unsafe work. Young workers should speak to their supervisors if they feel a task might be hazardous,” says Holmes. “Trust your gut— it’s okay to say, ‘I need more training before I am comfortable’ or ‘This doesn’t feel safe.’”
 

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Employer responsibilities
Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, employers have a legal responsibility to ensure young and new workers receive appropriate training and supervision.

 When employers fail to adequately train or supervise young workers, WorkSafeBC may use various enforcement tools, including orders, warning letters, stop-work orders, compliance agreements, and citations and penalties, where necessary.