HALIFAX, June 18, 2003 – “Statistics in Nova Scotia on workplace health and safety among youth aged 15 to 24 are alarming and reflect a growing cause for concern. It is time strong commitment and efforts are made to make real improvements.” It was in these sobering terms that Mr. David Stuewe, Chief Executive Officer of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, launched a new young worker awareness campaign in the province recently.
The campaign targets young workers, aged 15 – 24, and urges them to know their rights and responsibilities in the workplace in order to create a safer environment for themselves. Consisting primarily of radio and poster ads, young workers are encouraged to visit a Web site (youngworker.ns.ca) or call 1-800-952-2687 to ask questions and find answers to workplace health and safety issues. The campaign will run for six weeks and appear in areas frequented by young people, including junior and high school washrooms and bar and restaurant washrooms. Posters will also be in employment centers throughout Nova Scotia and on display at street level locations in the metro Halifax area. Radio ads will play across the province and newspaper ads will be featured in The Coast, a popular paper with strong youth appeal.
The campaign profiles three young workers – Jamie Lapierre, 21, who lost his life while working as deck crew on a barge (Jamie’s sister Karen is featured in the campaign); Candace Carnahan, who lost her lower left leg when it was caught in a conveyor belt while working in a summer job at a mill; and James Wright, who broke his back on the job at age 18.
Statistics in Nova Scotia show an increase in time loss claims of young workers between 1997 and 2002; 4% for males and 20% for females. “The school year is coming to a close and thousands of students will soon enter the labour market to find summer jobs,” explained Mr. Stuewe. “We have to act now so that the results from 2003 clearly show the issue is being taken seriously by everyone and demonstrate real reduction in injuries to youth.”
In Nova Scotia, some business sectors are affected more by injuries among young workers. Among 15 to 24-year-olds, the top three industries where young workers are getting injured are manufacturing, restaurants and other dining establishments and finally, retail organizations. As among adults, more young men are likely to be victims of work-related accidents and death than young women.
“Many young people get their start in the labour market when they’re students, working part time during the school year and full time in the summer,” clarifies Stuewe. “But too often, workplace health and safety orientation and safety training are woefully inadequate. Too little time is spent on pointing out the hazards and explaining work procedures that will help avoid minor accidents as well as those that could affect them for the rest of their lives.”
Although injuries are similar among all age groups, most accidents that young people suffer are due to objects that hit them or to over-exertion. It may therefore be a question of inadequate equipment or the faulty use of equipment. The condition of floors and other surfaces is also a frequent cause of slips and falls among all age groups.
The main injuries sustained by young people are sprains and strains, cuts, bruises and contusions, fractures and burns. “Some young people suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives,” stressed Mr. Stuewe, “and that is unacceptable. We have to act and do it quickly to ensure a high level of health and safety among all workers and young people in particular. Our goal must be to make this a generation with an elevated awareness of safety consciousness.”
“These young workers are our children,” concluded the CEO of the WCB of Nova Scotia. “They represent our future and it’s up to us to ensure that together we provide them the safe, healthy workplace they are entitled to.”
The Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada will meet to discuss this issue at a national forum that will take place in Montreal in late October.