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A parent's guide to workplace safety

The Ottawa Catholic School Board has designated April 25-29, 2016 as our 8th Annual Workplace Safety Week. This is a time to promote awareness amongst our students about the importance of being safe in the workplace. Student leaders from each of our high schools will gather together with employers, labour representatives, and government safety partners to participate in roundtable discussions on workplace safety.

The tragic story of David Ellis

Rob Ellis' heart broke the day his son didn't come home from work. ocsb photo of david ellisOne February morning in 1999, Rob Ellis' son, David, lost his life on the second day of a temporary bakery job. No other family should have to know the grief the Ellises have endured. Rob now devotes his life to working to do whatever he can to help make Ontario a safer place for everyone — especially for our young workforce.

Young workers under the age of 24 are being hurt and killed on the job every day. They have a greater chance of getting hurt at work than any other age group. The reasons are simple — they have less experience; may not receive proper training and supervision; and, often do not recognize or question dangerous working conditions.

Help your child stay safe at work

Young worker safety remains a high priority for everyone. Every year, the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) receives approximately 50,000 claims from workers under age 24, and about 12 young workers are killed annually. As a parent, you can do a lot to help your child stay safe at work. Open up the discussion between you and your child, before they take that big step into the workforce.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour provides occupational health and safety awareness training programs for workers and supervisors to help employers comply with the training requirements under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act. To learn more about these training requirements and the ministry's suite of free resources, please visit Ontario.ca/LearnToWorkSafe. Additional resources for young workers can be found at Ontario.ca/YoungWorkers.

If you or your child have any concerns about work safety that are not being addressed, call the Ministry of Labour at 1-800-267-1916.

Encourage your child to become familiar with the issues

Before your child starts a job, or begins volunteering, encourage them to do some safety research. Some good sites to begin with are, My Safe WorkWSIB Ontario, and Worksmart Ontario.

Some common injuries amongst working teenagers

All injuries, even the perceived “small” injuries must be reported to your child’s supervisor. Impress upon your teen to speak up, to not be shy, and to know their rights. Don’t let them gamble with their health. Injuries for young workers include:

  • sprains and strains from lifting heavy objects
  • severe burns from working with hot substances (e.g. in fast food outlets)
  • cuts and lacerations from knives and slicing machines
  • loss of blood and amputations from being crushed or dragged into machinery
  • broken bones, head injuries and other traumatic injuries from falls

Know your child's rights under the law

The law provides rights and responsibilities for safety at work. Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Canada Labour Code, every worker has the right to know about any hazards related to their work. They have the right to participate in making sure their job and workplace are safe and healthy. They have the right to refuse unsafe work. If an employer can't meet these standards, then it is not worth working there. 

Be aware of the risks. Understand the requirements of employers to ensure your child's safety.

  • workers must work safely, take personal responsibility, and wear protective equipment properly
  • employers must provide safety orientation and training, such as WHMIS
  • employers cannot fire or discipline someone for refusing unsafe work or reporting hazards
  • if an injury happens at work, workers must report all work injuries or illnesses to their supervisor
  • employers must provide medical aid and report the injury to the WSIB
  • employers can’t tell a worker not to file a claim for a workplace injury

What to discuss before your child starts a new job

  • Ask your child to research the company they want to work for. What do people say about the company? Has anyone recently been injured or killed there? Does the company have a health and safety policy?
  • If you hear, “I’ll just be working around the pool watching kids. It’s easy work, mom and dad, don’t worry!” This is a great opportunity to talk about wet surfaces and the serious injuries a slip and fall may cause. It also allows you to talk about dangerous chemicals like chlorine and other acids.
  • Ask if they will be operating any equipment, and if they expect to get training.
  • Remind your child that safety guards should never be removed when working with machines. If a piece of machinery needs to be cleaned, they should make sure it cannot be turned on accidentally.
  • Ask if they think they’ll need any protective gear, like safety footwear. Discuss why the protective equipment is needed. Talk about proper wearing of equipment, much the same way as you did when they were younger and you spoke to them about the benefits of wearing a seatbelt.
  • Tell your son or daughter that if they are ever asked to do something that doesn’t feel safe, to speak up, and always check with their supervisor. If they still feel unsafe, they have every right to refuse to perform the task.
  • Discuss the dangers of working while tired, or while taking medication, drugs or alcohol.

Questions for your child once they have started working

  • What kind of safety training did you receive? Did it seem like enough?
  • Were you provided with personal protective equipment — what kind of condition is it in? Does it fit? Were you instructed on how to wear it properly?
  • Do you know your direct supervisor and how to contact him or her? Is there a company health and safety department?
  • Does your boss believe in, and promote health and safety?
  • Do you know what to do if you are injured?
  • How safe do you feel at work? Are there any situations where it does not feel right?
  • Are there company emergency procedures and do you know what to do in an emergency or fire?
  • When you are asked to operate a new machine, have you received instruction?