Ontario is launching a four-month safety blitz to help protect new and young workers who are often vulnerable to hazards on the job.
Beginning May 1, health and safety inspectors will ensure employers are complying with regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and that young workers are:
- instructed, trained and supervised on jobs;
- using proper safety measures, equipment and procedures to prevent injuries; and
- meeting minimum age requirements for the work they are doing.
Inspectors will focus on workplaces where many new and young workers are employed, including restaurants, landscaping sites, arenas, mills, nursing homes, low-rise construction projects and farming operations.
New and young workers in Ontario are four times more likely to be injured during the first month of employment than at any other time.
According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s annual report, between 2005 and 2009, 36 young workers aged 15 to 24 died in work-related incidents such as falls, motor vehicle incidents and accidents involving machinery. The most common work-related injuries included sprains and strains, cuts/lacerations/punctures and bruises/contusions.
Many of the injured young workers were employed as salespeople, transport/equipment operators and labourers in processing, manufacturing and utilities.
Blitz inspections will focus on three key priorities:
Orientation, training and supervision:
To ensure new and young workers are being given the required information and instruction when starting a new job and are receiving required supervision. For example, new and young workers should know the requirements involving the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). They should also be aware of their rights and obligations, including their right to refuse work that could endanger themselves or others.
Minimum age requirements:
Workers must be at least:
- 14 years old to work in industrial establishments such as offices, stores, arenas and restaurant serving areas;
- 15 years old to work in most factories, including restaurant kitchens, automotive service garages, produce and meat preparation areas, laundries, warehouses, and shipping and receiving areas in grocery stores; and
- 16 years old to work at logging operations or construction projects where people less than 16 years of age may not be present.
Safety measures and procedures:
To ensure all required safety measures are in place to prevent injuries, including:
- Safe practices for handling any potentially dangerous materials,
- Proper mechanical device usage and work spaces to prevent ergonomic and musculoskeletal injuries,
- Safety measures for specific equipment such as using guarding devices on machinery
- Correct use of lifting devices, ladders and personal protective equipment to prevent falls.
In addition, inspectors will check to ensure employers are meeting new requirements that came into effect on June 15, 2010 to protect workers from workplace violence and harassment.
The blitz will focus on:
- New and young workers aged 14 to 24 years; and
- New workers, that are 25 years and older and who have been on the job less than six months or who have been reassigned to a new job.
New workers include:
- Any new hire, either permanent or temporary, including supervisors, with or without experience in the industry where they are working;
- Current workers who are assigned new jobs; and
- Student workers, co-op placements or apprentices.