|Welcome to WorkSmartOntario!|
When your son or daughter gets their first job, it's a milestone in their development and a
time of excitement and changes in every family.
What you need to know is that young workers - those under the age of 25 - are vulnerable to
workplace injuries and death and to unfair treatment under the Employment Standards Act.
Your role as a parent, mentor, cheerleader and supporter doesn't end when your teen enters
the world of work. In fact it becomes as important as it was when your child learned how to
ride a bike or went to school on his or her own for the first time.
The environment they're entering is unfamiliar. The rules are different. The relationship
of employee/boss is new (and often intimidating) to teens. There are hazards in work that didn't
exist in any other environment they've been before. They may be receiving pay for their work and want
time off for fun. How do they know if they're being treated fairly?
This website has a lot of good information for you and your teen. There is information about
rights and responsibilities and help to ensure their safety and compensation is never compromised.
Learning about workplace requirements and making sure they're safe is a life skill that can quite
possibly prevent them from becoming one of the young workers who get injured
or killed on the job each year.
No job is worth losing your finger, arm, eye or your life. Don't let them get caught up in the
enthusiasm. Work is serious business. Not all supervisors and employers will look out for your
teen. Your teen, with your support, needs to learn to always look out for their own safety.
Here's a special piece written for parents of teen volunteers, but the information is universal.
- Parents of teen volunteers
- Did you know?
- So why are teens vulnerable to injuries at work?
- Did you know there are minimum ages?
- So, how can I help my teen select a safe volunteer assignment?
- How can I help to make sure my teen is safe once he/she starts the assignment?
|Parents of teen volunteers
It's an exciting time for the family when young people begin to volunteer in their community or
take their first job. For many, volunteering for an organization or agency, or providing their services
to others is the first time they've been "on their own".
Through the early years, parents strive to provide a safe environment for their children. We
use car seats, put plugs in open electrical sockets, close off staircases, hold hands crossing the
street, put household chemicals out of reach, put bike helmets on them, buy safety gear for their
sports, send them to babysitting and driving courses, and so on.
We do all these things to protect our children from preventable injury and illness, but what about
their safety at the time they reach this milestone and start working for others?
When young people move in the "working world" as a volunteer or working for pay, studies
have shown that most parents have little or no concern for their child's safety in that environment.
Until alerted to the astounding number of youth that are injured and killed on the job, most parents
have never thought about their need to continue protecting their teen when they move into the
world of work.
|Did you know?
- From January 1st, 2006 to December 31st, 2010, 34 Ontario workers under the age of 25 lost their lives on the job.
Source: Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
- In 2009, 28,709 young workers filed injury claims with the WSIB. Of those, 7,527 were lost time injuries, meaning the injury was severe enough to require the worker to lose at least one day of work.
Source: Young Worker Statistics, WSIB
|So why are teens vulnerable to injuries at work?
As a parent of a teen, you are all too familiar with the characteristics that come with a
growing body and mind. We know they're fun, bright, eager to get out into the world and have
a lot to offer.
But realistically, some teens are at a developmental phase where they are prone to
being impatient, clumsy, bored, acting on "for the moment" thinking, afraid to ask questions
because they don't want to look 'stupid', and similar traits that they soon grow out of. When
you take the average teen and put them in a situation that they've never experienced before, the
risk of injury doubles. When that teen goes into a work situation where the people there don't
spend the time to provide orientation, training, supervision and a positive environment where the
teen feels comfortable, the risk of injury skyrockets.
At a volunteer assignment, or a new job for that matter, youth find:
- most tasks they're assigned involve activities that aren't familiar to them
- the experience of taking on responsibility in a place other than home or school is new
and a little daunting
- the sponsor/volunteer or employer/worker relationship is new and youth new to this
situation don't always know how they're expected to relate to their 'boss'
- some adults in the organization/workplace don't know how to relate to youth and
don't always take the time to explain the basics to them. Adults need to remember what it
was like their first day on a new job!
- they don't have the experience to know how to recognize workplace hazards
- they are reluctant to ask for help or question existing work practices for fear of
looking incapable or 'stupid'
- they fall back on trust. Children are taught to respect and listen to adults, so,
in this new situation where they don't know what to do, they decide to trust their
employers and fellow workers to look out for their safety - which is one of the worst
times to rely on trust
- they don't get training, demonstrations or supervision
- sometimes they get assigned boring, repetitive, physically demanding or mundane
tasks, which increases the potential for inattention or over-exertion that may result
- they're tired after school, homework, family responsibilities and perhaps a
part-time job. Being tired and less attentive increases the risk of injury.
A balance needs to be struck to ensure their well-being comes first.
|Did you know there are minimum ages?
Regulations made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act set minimum ages for young
people to work and to be allowed in an Ontario workplace. Workplaces who knowingly bring
underage youth into the workplace may be breaking the law and subject to penalties.
Workplaces that are prohibited from allowing youth to be on the site until they are
a certain age are those that engage in complex or potentially dangerous work that
requires regular workers to have extensive training, experience and skills to perform
the work safely. Most would involve working with moving equipment, working at heights,
handling chemicals, working in and around mobile equipment and similar tasks environments
where you wouldn't want your teen occasionally visiting to volunteer, or possibly working in at all.
For instance,they must be:
- 16 years old to be on (or work at) a construction site or logging operation
- 15 years old to be in (or work at) a factory or restaurant kitchen, unless on a tour or accompanied by an adult
- 14 years old to be in (or work at) most other types of industrial establishments.
Examples of types of workplaces with no minimum age requirements preventing youth from volunteering:
- libraries, museums, art galleries
- schools, day cares, camps
- health care: i.e. hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes
- hospices (excluding kitchens)
- recreation: i.e. sports teams; golf, tennis, ski instruction
- community events: car washes, food and clothing drives.
But that doesn't mean that hazards do not exist in these environments, too.
|So, how can I help my teen select a safe volunteer assignment?
Let your teen determine the type of activities he or she like to undertake to further his or her
skills or get some practical experience. But when it comes down to the final decision, play
an active role in helping your teen make his or her choice.
Here are a few examples of things you should consider:
The age and maturity of your teen. Are they physically, socially and emotionally
ready to handle the activity? If decision-making is required as part of the activity,
does your teen have good judgement skills? (A quick decision or not "thinking it through"
may cause an unsafe situation and expose your teen to injury.) Few know your child better than you.
Your assessment is valuable.
Does the organization/sponsor/agency have a good reputation in your community?... or are they
just getting started or are they unknown?
Do they regularly use volunteers? Can you ask one of their current volunteers to talk
to you and your teen to find out more about the type of work they do? If they've never used
volunteers, you may not want to be the first one!
Provision of safety instruction. Is your teen expected to jump right in to helping, or
will they receive training on what needs to be done, a demonstration and some safety instruction?
The extent of orientation training may vary depending on the activity for a few hours at a food
drive, 10 or 15 minutes of orientation may be enough (i.e. what your task is, how to lift and
move boxes safely, when to ask for help, what to do if you get injured), but for 40 hours spent
at a nursing home, the initial training and orientation should be at least one hour and continue
as new tasks are assigned.
Avoiding any activity that involves a hazardous process, biological or chemical hazard.
Teen volunteers completing their 40-hour volunteer requirement are prohibited from
operating power tools. This should extend to any powered equipment, such as wood working
tools, industrial equipment, mobile equipment, etc. If the teen is required to work at heights,
proper ladders and instruction need to be provided. If they're in a health care environment,
their tasks should minimize any exposure to biological hazards and they should be instructed about
wearing rubber gloves and requirements for hand washing. They should avoid work with chemicals,
including cleaning compounds. Avoiding exposure to these hazards is the best method of protection.
The alternative is extensive training, use of personal protective equipment and an unnecessary risk
of injury or illness.
|How can I help to make sure my teen is safe once he/she starts the assignment?
Choosing wisely in the first place will give you peace of mind. Periodically monitoring the
types of activities your teen is involved in will allow you the opportunity to ask more questions
and continue assessing to see if he or she is in a vulnerable situation.
If there are aspects of his or her assignments that make you feel that your teen is at risk,
you and your teen should discuss it immediately and take immediate action to discuss it with the
organization/sponsor. Stop the task until the concern is discussed and rectified or, you may decide
it's better just to leave this particular volunteer assignment.
When they come home from spending time in their volunteer work, ask your teens about the
type of work they did. If it is something different than what they did on a previous day, ask
if they received instruction on how to do the new job and if their supervisor was around to
demonstrate and make sure they did it correctly and safely.
If you spot any dangers from what they say, talk to them about these risks and what they
should do to protect themselves.
Encourage your teen to ask their supervisor for help and ask questions when they're not
sure about how to perform a task safely.
|How do I detect if my teen is at risk at work?|
There is no complete list of everything your teen could be exposed to and all the things you need to ask to
ensure he or she is safe.
Use the same judgement skills you used when they were children and that you use now in other situations
they're exposed to: such as violence, driving and drugs. For instance, if they're exposed to situations
where they're working alone, working at heights, lifting heavy loads, using chemicals or powered equipment,
handling sharp objects or laboratory samples there's a risk. If they don't have any training, supervision
or protective equipment in these situations, your teen may be at serious risk of injury or illness.
Stand up for your teen's rights. Everyone, paid or not, has the right to work in a safe and healthy work environment.
Illness and injury can change their lives... forever.
A word about insurance - volunteers are not covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (formerly WCB). That's another good reason for ensuring a safe placement.
|Quiz for parents
What do you know about your teen's job?
- What tasks do they normally perform?
- Did they receive orientation to the job and the rules of the workplace?
- Did they receive safety training and information on the hazards associated with their job?
- Do they work with powered equipment, chemicals, mobile equipment, at heights, around biological agents or are they required to lift and carry heavy objects?
- Does their supervisor work in or near their work area?
- Does the supervisor provide feedback on how they're performing on the job and provide information and advice to help prevent your teen from being injured?
- Are they required to use or wear protective equipment? If so, have they been trained in how to use it properly and ensure it fits?
- If they work with chemicals, did they receive WHMIS training?
- Do they know that they must report safety concerns and hazards they find to their supervisor?
- Do they know that they are supposed to report all injuries they suffer to their supervisor?
Volunteer or paid worker, youth at work are vulnerable to injuries. Your good judgement and parental guidance can help protect them.