While young workers are busy thinking about starting new summer jobs and others are re-joining the workforce, they may not realize that their “newness” to the world of work could be hazardous to their health. Research from the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) reveals that new workers in the first month on the job have over three times the risk of a lost-time injury as workers with over a year’s experience on the job.
According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC), in 2015, there were 30,207 accepted lost time claims by young workers (aged 15-24) in Canada and 15 died from work-related injuries or illnesses. Workers, parents and employers all have a shared responsibility for health and safety. As a parent, when you see your teenager off to his or her new summer job, take the time to talk to them about their work as well as precautions that can help ensure they come home healthy and safe. Perhaps share some of the safe work practices from your own workplace. As an employer, you have the responsibility to create and foster a safe and healthy work environment and to protect the health and safety of all your workers. You need to ensure you have a comprehensive orientation program and upon hire, you communicate health and safety roles and responsibilities. This sets the tone for the workplace and ensures that workers are starting on safe footing.
New workers are different from young workers in that they are not necessarily entering the workforce for the first time. They could be returning to work after an absence such as maternity leave or an injury, and it’s possible that conditions and procedures have changed. Or they could be working for the same company, but in a new role or location. As a result they may be facing new hazards for which they are not prepared or adequately trained. These workers should also undergo the orientation program and have an opportunity to review and discuss their return to work, ask any questions and receive appropriate training.
All workers need to know their rights. These include the right to know what hazards are present on the job and how to protect themselves, the right to participate in keeping their workplace healthy and safe and a right to report unsafe conditions and practices. They also have the right to refuse dangerous or unsafe work, making sure to follow specific procedures when doing so.
Timely and effective training is essential when starting a new job. The IWH study showed that just one in five workers in Canada received safety training in their first year with a new employer. Learning on the job, or waiting several months for a classroom course, are not good options.
Effective training methods include:
- Hands-on or simulation training (before starting the actual work).
- Mentoring by experienced workers.
- Apprentice programs.
- Written procedures that are clear and concise.
- Practice time and opportunity to ask questions and obtain feedback.
- Programs written in an active voice with clear instructions.
- Grouping equipment or tasks with similar functions.
When you are at your job interview, keep an eye out for signs that the employer takes safety seriously. Look for warning signs in hazardous areas, employees wearing protective equipment, safety posters, etc.
As a new worker, you may have questions about your work. If you are unsure of anything, always ask your employer or supervisor to go over any procedures or practices until you feel comfortable proceeding. Seek feedback from your supervisor or instructor to make sure you are performing the tasks correctly. Make sure that you have been properly fitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) and shown how to wear it, clean it, and store it properly.
Here are some other suggestions for workers to consider for a healthy and safe work environment.
- Ask experienced employees and/or your supervisor about workplace hazards.
- Know what to do in an emergency situation, such as a fire alarm or power failure.
- Ask for a copy of the health and safety rules, if you aren't given one.
- Follow all safety precautions.
- Report any accidents or unsafe conditions to your supervisor immediately.
- Be a safety leader and walk the talk.
- Develop a comprehensive health and safety program.
- Work with your health and safety representative and/or committee to identify and control hazards.
- Assign suitable work. Avoid assigning jobs to inexperienced workers that require long training times, a great deal of responsibility, critical or risky tasks, or working alone.
- Instruct workers not to perform any task until they have been properly trained.
- Provide detailed training on equipment, safety features, and control systems.
- Communicate with the worker about the job tasks clearly and frequently, repeating and confirming this training over the first few weeks of work.
- Encourage workers to think in a safety-minded way about all of their work. Tell workers that if they don’t know or are unsure about something, to ask someone first.
- Train workers on what do in case of fire, injury, or other emergency.
Whether you are a young or new worker; retraining or re-joining the workforce, you must be properly trained and prepared for the job at hand. Everyone in the workplace has a role to play in making sure we all stay on safe footing.
Resources from CCOHS
Young Workers Zone, CCOHS
Employee Orientation Checklist fact sheet, CCOHS
- Young/New Workers, CCOHS
- New Worker Safety in Canada Infographic, CCOHS
- Orientation on Health and Safety for New Workers, ecourse CCOHS
- Orientation on Health and Safety for New Agricultural Workers, ecourse CCOHS
- Orientation for New Workers publication, CCOHS
- Bullying is Not Part of the Job poster, CCOHS
- Summer Job Safety podcast, CCOHS
- New Workers: Orientation is Key podcast, CCOHS
- Protecting New and Young Workers podcast, CCOHS
- Study finds persistence of higher injury risk for new workers, Institute for Work and Health
- Young or new workers, WorkSafeBC
Tips & Tools
At one time or another you have probably used the heel of your hand as a tool to push, grind or even hammer something solid. Repetitive trauma to the fleshy part of the hand can lead to a serious condition called hypothenar hammer syndrome. A wide variety of activities can expose your hand to this type of harm. Whether you are at work, tackling your spring projects, or getting back into outdoor sports activities learn to recognize the causes and symptoms and how to prevent harming yourself.
Hypothenar hammer syndrome is a condition of the hand in which the blood flow to the fingers is reduced. Hypothenar refers to the group of muscles that control the movement of the little finger. Some of these muscles make up the fleshy edge of the palm (hypothenar eminence). It occurs when workers repeatedly use the palm of the hand (especially the hypothenar eminence) as a hammer to grind, push, and twist hard objects in either work or recreational activities. These activities can damage certain blood vessels of the hand especially the ulnar artery. This artery goes through the fleshy area of the palm and supplies blood to the fingers. When the ulnar artery is damaged there is a reduction in the flow of blood to the fingers. Sometimes a single significant episode can cause the syndrome.
Workers at Risk
Hypothenar hammer syndrome typically occurs in men with an average age of 40 years. Workers at risk include auto mechanics, metal workers, lathe operators, miners, machinists, butchers, bakers, carpenters, landscapers, and bricklayers. Workers who use vibrating tools are also at risk.
This syndrome can also be caused from sports activities such as karate, basketball, baseball, mountain biking, golf, tennis, hockey, handball, volleyball, badminton, breakdancing, drumming and weight lifting.
The symptoms of hypothenar hammer syndrome are a pain at the hypothenar eminence and ring finger, pins and needles (paresthesia), loss of feeling, and difficulty holding heavy objects in the affected hand. The fingers become sensitive to cold and change colour.
Because this syndrome is relatively uncommon and unrecognized, the diagnosis is often missed or delayed. The diagnosis is based on symptoms, medical history and job history, and then confirmed with tests showing the obstruction of the blood vessels.
Treatment and Prevention
Treating hypothenar hammer syndrome begins by avoiding those activities that caused the syndrome in the first place. Other treatments may include smoking cessation (smoking negatively affects blood circulation), the use of padded protective gloves, and avoiding the cold. Certain drugs will help to restore the blood flow. For some cases surgery may be necessary.
Be aware of the causes and symptoms of this syndrome. Some steps you can take to prevent hypothenar hammer syndrome are:
- Focus on improving work practices.
- Avoid using the palm of the hand as a hammer to pound, push or twist hard objects.
- Don’t grip tools such as impact wrenches, pliers, scissors and even vehicle gearshifts too tightly.
- Switch tasks regularly or rest your hands.
- Use padded protective gloves to avoid the excessive trauma to the heel of the hand while working or participating in activities that put pressure on the palm.
Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) is opening up its inaugural Mayday, Mayday: Symposium on Workplace Mental Health, Stress and Injury Prevention by making the event available to the public through live streaming. Mayday, Mayday is intended to be a day of knowledge transfer, networking and dialogue around several aspects of this important issue.
The event will highlight current prevention initiatives, techniques, solutions, tools and resources, and approaches to addressing the challenges facing workplaces in Ontario in the field of workplace mental health and occupational health and safety.
The day’s agenda includes guest speakers and presenters from government, health and safety, labour, education and CCOHS.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
8:30am – 3:45pm
Register today for live streaming of the event at Mayday, Mayday Registration
Streaming details will be sent on May 1st.
Learn more about OHCOW and the Mayday, Mayday Symposium at http://www.ohcow.on.ca/news/mayday-mayday.html
Health and Safety To Go
This month’s Health and Safety To Go! podcasts feature an interview with Elaine Keunen from Threads of Life and an encore presentation of Preventing Permanent Hearing Loss.
Feature Podcast: Day of Mourning: Elaine Keunen’s Story
Threads of Life speaker Elaine Keunen shares her family’s personal story of how their lives were forever changed by a workplace tragedy. In conversation with CCOHS, Elaine shares her own experience regarding the importance of supporting affected families and making sure that young workers are safe on the job.
The podcast runs 4:23 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
Encore Podcast: Preventing Permanent Hearing Loss
Noise is one of the most common occupational health hazards as it can cause permanent, irreversible hearing loss. This episode shares what workers and their supervisors can do to help prevent permanent hearing loss at work.
The podcast runs 3:59 minutes. Listen to the podcast now.
CCOHS produces free monthly podcasts on a wide variety of topics designed to keep you current with information, tips, and insights into the health, safety, and well-being of working Canadians. You can download the audio segment to your computer or MP3 player and listen to it at your own convenience... or on the go!
Every year, for one week, health and safety takes centre stage. North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week, May 7-13, is a great time to bring family and coworkers together to participate in events that promote the prevention of injury and illness in the workplace, home and community.
As part of your NAOSH week planning, why not consider attending CCOHS’ free webinar on Steps to a Mentally Healthy Workplace? The webinar takes place on May 11, 2017 at 1pm EDT.
About the webinar
Mental health is an integral part of a healthy workplace. Supportive workplaces promote the total health and well-being of their employees and offer protection from psychological harm. Establishing a culture of caring that embeds all forms of health in all aspects of the workplace, takes effort and time. This webinar will provide you with an overview of the tools and resources your organization needs to create and implement a comprehensive healthy workplace program.
Get together in your meeting room with your co-workers for this 45-minute webinar or watch it at your computer.
If you can’t make it to the live session, register anyway so you can receive a link to the recorded session that you can watch on-demand.
About the presenters
Sue Freeman is a senior member of CCOHS’ communications team and speaks on workplace mental health as part of CCOHS’ Mental Health @ Work group.
Emma Nicolson is an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist at CCOHS and leads the Centre’s implementation of the CSA standard on psychological health and safety.
Date: Thursday, May 11, 2017
Time: 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm EDT
Length: 45 minutes
For more NAOSH week ideas for your workplace and events in your area check out NAOSH.ca.
Every year, as part of North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week, CCOHS sponsors the Youth Video Contest to encourage students from across Canada to create videos illustrating the importance of workplace health and safety. The top video from each participating province and territory moves onto the national stage, where a judging panel selects the first, second and third place winners. Everyone else can have their say by voting online for their Fan Favourite from April 29 – May 5, 2017.
Here’s how to do it:
- Display posters and send announcements inviting staff to drop in and watch all the top videos from the contest
- Turn a meeting room into a theatre by setting up a projector and screen.
- Connect a laptop with speakers, and run the YouTube playlist of all the top videos.
Ideas and tips for a successful Film Fest
- Hold your own “Fan Favourite” voting by providing ballots for staff to jot down their favourite video
- Run the playlist continuously so staff can drop in throughout the day to watch the videos
- Offer door prizes and a draw for those who complete a Fan Favourite ballot
- Offer popcorn or other healthy snacks to munch on
- Share your event photos on social media with the #focusonsafety and #NAOSHWeek hashtags
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The Health and Safety Report, a free monthly newsletter produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), provides information, advice, and resources that help support a safe and healthy work environment and the total well being of workers.
© 2017, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Length: 4:23 minutes
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