|How to provide young volunteers with a healthy and safe working environment|
WE'RE A TEAM and we're GLAD you're here!
When young people come into an organization to volunteer, they won't have the same
connection to the work, nor will they have the commitment to the organization and the
full appreciation of the services you provide and the goals of your service that your
staff or regular volunteers have.
Take the time to talk to explain WHAT you do, WHY you do it, and HOW it benefits
the clients you serve. Understanding the goals and making a better connection to the
organization will not only make the volunteer assignment more rewarding, it will also
contribute to helping them work safer. When they feel like part of a team, they are less
likely to act independently and feel isolated.
Remember, this is all new to many of your young volunteers. Many have not had positions
of responsibility outside of their home or school, and the experience may be a little daunting.
Further, the supervisor/worker relationship is new and not well understood. How you relate
to the young volunteer and the experience you provide will provide the foundation for their
- Why are we talking about safety?
- So why are teens vulnerable to injuries at work?
- How to create a rewarding and SAFE volunteer experience
|Why are we talking about safety?
- 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
Most volunteer organizations have paid workers, so they should be familiar with the
Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Act applies to paid workers but not to volunteers.
Regardless, employers have an overall responsibility for the safety of persons in the workplace,
and volunteers, especially young ones, should be treated as if the Act applied, and as if they
were your own children.
Teach them well, provide a positive working environment, supervise them and you'll be
rewarded with enthusiasm, dedication, hard work, and fewer injuries.
|So why are teens vulnerable to injuries at work?
Teens have growing bodies and minds. We all know they're fun, bright, eager to learn and
please and have a lot to offer to anyone who works with them, 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.
Minimum age requirements for youth to be IN a workplace which applies to volunteers are
actually found in regulations made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Workplaces who knowingly
bring underage youth into the workplace may be in contravention of the legislation.
People 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 which includes a restaurant kitchen, unless you're on a tour or accompanied by an adult.
- 14 years old to be in (or work at) most other types of industrial establishments.
|How to create a rewarding and SAFE volunteer experience
Before you begin screening, interviewing, training and supervising young volunteers, you need
to take some time to reflect on your early work or volunteer experiences.
- Were you patient, open to suggestions and willing to admit your lack of knowledge?
- Did you pretend to know more than you did?
- Did you think that you'd just figure things out as they went along and do them your own way?
- Did you feel intimidated?
- Did you receive any training, instruction or supervision and - if you didn't wouldn't it have helped to relieve the butterflies, the fear of the unknown or of asking a question?
- What were your attitudes to safety then? DID you feel invincible? WOULD you have tried anything? WOULD you have bothered with safety?
If you said yes to any of these, you were a normal teen and now that you remember what it
was like to start a new job, you'll be better prepared to plan interview questions, plan orientation
and training and establish a supervision and mentorship program that will work.
Remind supervisors and others in the workplace how to relate to young volunteers, to answer
their questions, and to never assume that they know how to perform tasks.
Determine appropriate tasks and carefully assign them to the individual who suits the task.
It's not news that teens develop at different rates. No two 15-year olds will likely be at the same
level of physical or emotional maturity to handle the same tasks, but it's often something that's
not well considered when assigning jobs. Further, their lack of experience means that they may lack
the judgement skills older volunteers will have to solve problems or perform a task safely.
Match the task to the person.
Ensure tasks are well defined
Doing a little of this and a little of that or worse yet, putting in time doing "whatever",
creates uncertainty in your volunteer about what to do or how to do it. These are opportunities
for exposure to a wide variety of hazards and a high risk of injury. Ideally, a written
"job description" with full instructions helps everyone understand the requirements of the
job and what's expected. Carefully matching the task to the individual will also help to
reduce the risk of injury.
Let them have some choice in selecting tasks
Assigning tasks that you and the volunteer have discussed not only helps the volunteer pick
a task that interests them, it gives them an chance to select tasks that may help them develop
skills and knowledge they think will help them in their career path. If they're doing a task
that they like to do and fully understand, they'll have a comfort level that should eliminate
the typical discomfort or intimidation a young volunteer may feel.
|Sometimes enough is enough!
Teens seem to have endless energy, but the truth is, they have a lot going on. Their bodies are growing, they spend long days at school, must complete homework, have 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. You may want to help them select volunteer times that don't conflict with other responsibilities.
From the safety point of view consider the nature of the tasks assigned.
Complex tasks may not be suitable for the volunteer who only comes in occasionally, as they may
not remember the sequences required and may miss a step, exposing themselves and perhaps another
person to injuries. Repetitive tasks or ones that are physically demanding are usually not suitable
for anyone to do for an extended period of time. To avoid boredom or loss of concentration, consider
job rotation. Tasks that carry responsibilities that can impact the health and safety of others may not
be appropriate for young volunteers.
- Teach them well
Young volunteers will need more time with you in training, demonstrating and supervising.
Their ambition and skills will reward your investment.
Orientation. Everything they need to know and more
- Explain how your organization works, what its mission is, who runs the organization, your policies and procedures.
- Give an overview of the tasks that they will be assigned and the reasons for doing it how it fits into the importance of what your organization does or stands for. A sense that their tasks are making a contribution to the overall good of the organization will help make them feel more comfortable and will pave the way to discussions about safety on the job.
Training - talk, listen and be interactive ask them their opinions, how they would or did solve a problem related to work, etc.
- Take your time to explain the safety precautions and ensure they know all the potential hazards, as well as any safety equipment that needs to be used or worn. Include:
- WHMIS products they may work around and location of the Material Safety Data Sheets.
- Emergency procedures: fire, first aid, injury, alarms and others as applicable.
- Provide written instructions if available for the volunteer to take home and review, especially if they only volunteer periodically.
- Avoid information overload you may want to break up the orientation and training into smaller sessions.
Discuss past incidents and near misses to demonstrate risks. Talk about how these situations could have been avoided and the type of corrective action you took.
|Tips for Training Teens
- Make orientation and training match the learning abilities of your volunteers and have it delivered by a person who is skilled at working with young, inexperienced persons.
- Keep orientation interactive, asking volunteers to draw on their experience and encouraging them to provide input, ideas and suggestions.
- Make orientation and training practical - cover what you need to cover don't get off track
- Guide them: provide rules and consequence when rules aren't followed.
- Have them explain instructions back to you to verify everything is well understood assumptions won't help anyone.
- Evaluate - Did the learning take place? Are they applying the learning? Did they perform their job correctly and safely?
- Provide positive reinforcement when a job is performed well, and safely.
- When tasks or circumstances change, provide new instructions, demonstrations and validation that they understand the new job.
- Demonstrate the jobs to be done - break it down into small tasks if necessary so that every step is well explained and, most importantly, well understood. Demonstrate again and focus on all safety precautions that are part of the task. Ask the volunteer if they can see anything about the job that may pose a risk and discuss how to prevent injuries those risks may pose. They may recognize things you hadn't thought of that's one of the benefits of a fresh pair of eyes!
- Have the volunteer perform the tasks until they can do it exactly as required. Get the technical steps right first. Being able to do it a little faster will come with experience. Encourage questions if they aren't coming. Tell them that, as part of the training, you want them to ask you three questions about the job. Repeat the task until it is learned.
|CHECK IT OUT!
Before a volunteer uses it, have powered equipment checked out to ensure it is in top running
condition and that all safety devices are present and working properly.
Watch over and guide them
- Ready, set, go. Let them perform the job alone when they've demonstrated that they've learned the task.
- Check in on them periodically a word of encouragement, a helpful suggestion or just a smile will go a long way in encouraging good work habits.
- Correct any unsafe work habits or behaviours you see or become aware of immediately don't let the behaviour continue.
- Make sure safety standards are maintained throughout the placement.
- Be sure they know where to get help if you're not immediately available.
- Make sure others who are working with the young volunteer also follows the safety rules. Mentors will set the pace.
Encourage and reward
- Encourage them to report hazards we can only correct what we know about!
- Encourage initiative and respect suggestions.
- Rewards don't have to be large a smile, a kind word and a positive comment from you, their mentor and possibly their first supervisor, are a great reward for someone new to work.
OUR SAFETY COMMITMENT
The commitment has been drafted for use in volunteer organizations
to demonstrate the team approach you want to take when it comes to protecting young volunteers.
Fact: Far too many young people who are new to work suffer injuries that could have been prevented.
We believe this does not have to happen.
We will work together to keep our volunteers safe!
|As the sponsoring agency we will:
||As a volunteer I will:
||As the parent/guardian of the volunteer, I will:
- Provide a safe and healthy work environment
- Encourage our young volunteers to raise concerns, ask questions and provide suggestions and ideas on making the tasks safer.
- Respond to concerns, questions, suggestions and ideas brought to our attention.
- Make sure that volunteers are aware of and follow established safety practices at all times.
- Ensure young and new volunteers are closely supervised and get the training they need to perform their tasks safely.
- Ask questions.
- Ask for training and a demonstration of new tasks I'm assigned.
- Say no if the task is beyond my capabilities.
- Not assume I know how to do something if I've never done it before.
- Discuss the tasks I'm asked to do as part of my volunteer work at home.
- Immediately report any unsafe conditions or practices that I observe to the sponsor.
- Report all injuries to my sponsor, no matter how minor they may seem to me.
- Talk to my teen about the tasks they are assigned and what's involved in doing those jobs - not just at the beginning, but throughout their time with the organization.
- Ask about the orientation, training and supervision they receive.
- Ensure my teen reports injuries and safety concerns to his/her sponsor at the organization.
- Encourage my teen to say no to tasks that are beyond his/her capabilities or impose undue risks to their safety.
Together we can prevent work-related injuries.