Text by Mary Teresa Bitti
It’s summer, and your baby’s about to start her first job. Until now, you’ve been the one in charge of her safety ““ making sure she had the right car seat, bike helmet, hockey gear. But when she’s out in the working world, who’ll watch out for her?
Certainly no one ““ herself included ““ is as invested in her well-being as you are. “Adolescents will work in unsafe conditions without questioning it,” says Ron Morrish, a child behaviour specialist and father of four in Fonthill, Ont. “They don’t know how to deal with real-world issues and they feel invincible. It’s a dangerous combination.” But teaching your teen to be her own workplace advocate can help keep her safe. First, test your knowledge of summer job safety with this short quiz.
The number of young workers seriously injured each year in Canada is:
A. more than 10,000
B. more than 30,000
C. more than 60,000
Over 60,000 young workers are injured seriously enough each year to require time off work. And in the past two years, nearly 100 have been killed as a result of hazardous working conditions. Even more frightening is that many of these injuries occur in places we parents consider low-risk. “Just because your son works in a movie theatre does not mean he is safe,” says Judith Fraser, coordinator of the young worker safety and education initiative of Manitoba Labour and Immigration in Winnipeg.
Your son is working in a warehouse, lifting heavy boxes. Knowing that back injuries are the most common hazard in the workplace, what do you do to make sure your son is safe?
A.Get the lowdown on how much training and supervision your son has
B. find out the company’s safety record
C. learn about safety regulations
Training and supervision are key. Most injuries are caused by their absence, or by the worker being distracted or not having the proper equipment, says Fraser. “Ask your child who his supervisor is, how closely they work together and how often they speak.”
While information about a specific workplace is difficult to obtain (Workers’ Compensation Boards will not release the safety records of individual companies), ask any friends and neighbours who are familiar with the company about how it functions. Encourage your child to ask during the interview how many injuries there were in the previous year, and about training and injury prevention. “Companies with good track records are happy to share that information,” says Fraser.
Teens need to know that safety and health laws apply to everyone: workers have the right to know about hazards; they can refuse to do a task they feel they are not adequately trained or equipped to do; and they have the right to raise safety concerns (find tips at jobsafecanada.ca and ccohs.ca).
Your teenage daughter says her new manager is touchy-feely and makes inappropriate comments. You:
A. give your daughter advice on how to advocate for herself
B. file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission
C. tell her to quit
So long as there is no fear of violence, the first step is to have your daughter tell the harasser, preferably in front of someone else, to stop whatever it is he is doing that makes her uncomfortable, says Fraser. She should also immediately report what’s happened to a senior staffer. If the bullying continues, she can file a complaint, either with the human rights commission or the workplace safety and health organization (it differs from province to province). Or, she can leave. Paul Lermitte of Vancouver advised his son Ryan to walk when on-the-job bullying got to be too much. “The good thing is Ryan talked to us about it. That’s important. I would encourage all parents to talk to their kids about what’s happening at work.”
Over 40 per cent of injuries to young workers occur at restaurants, stores and hotels.