Young Worker Health and Safety: Fast Facts from the Institute for Work & Health
Studies show that the risk for job-related injury is higher among young workers - defined as those aged 15 to 24 - than it is among older employees. More than 39,000 young workers were injured on the job in Ontario in 2008.
The relationship between age and job injury is complex. Here are some current facts and figures from the Institute for Work & Health.
What are the employment patterns for young workers?
- In Canada it’s very common for young people to work, both during the school year and over the summer: when they were surveyed 69 per cent of 15 to 19 year-olds, and 89 per cent of 20 to 24 year-olds said they had worked at some time during the previous year.
- Frequent job change means young people are “new on the job” for a longer period of time. At any given time, 5.3 per cent of workers aged 15-24 said they were in their first month on the job (on average), compared to 1.1 per cent of those over age 25.
- Research has shown that injuries are more likely to happen among new workers - of any age - in their first month on the job.
What risk is there that a young worker will be hurt on the job?
According to a Canadian health survey, adolescents and young adults are twice as likely to sustain a work injury as adults, and about 1.5 times as likely when you take into account the kinds of jobs young workers do and also their tendency to work part-time.
Why are young workers at higher risk for job-related injuries?
- Young Canadians perform more physically demanding work than adults, which increases their injury risk. A survey conducted in Ontario showed that younger workers encountered more unsafe work conditions than older workers.
- According to a recent survey, the top seven dangers facing working youth in British Columbia are: lifting heavy or awkward objects, working on ladders, stairs or other raised areas, using knives, working with hot substances or equipment, using or working near mobile equipment, operating food slicers, working near running equipment or machinery.
Lack of training and supervision
- Only 23 per cent of workers aged 15 to 24 who were in their first year on the job reported that they had received safety, orientation or equipment training. Forty-six percent said they had received no training at all.
- A U.S. study found that 80 per cent of work-related injuries among adolescents occurred when no supervisor was present.
Note: In Ontario the Ministry of Labour has set out expectations for employers of young workers, publishing a list of what inspectors will be asking.
Are some young workers more likely to be injured at work than others?
A number of so-called “individual factors” including gender, age and maturity level have been identified as contributors to workplace injury in teens and young adults:
- Young male workers have about twice the risk of injury compared to young females. In Ontario, 70 per cent of lost-time injuries occurred among young males compared to 30 per cent among young females.
- Gender differences in injury rates may be due in part to employment patterns. Nearly equal numbers of young men and women are employed. But males tend to work in more hazardous and physically demanding jobs, while young women are more likely to have sales and administrative jobs which decrease traumatic injury risk but increase their risk for repetitive strain injuries.
- Other findings question the theory that perceived invulnerability or risk taking are major reasons for young worker injuries - in fact, recent evidence suggests that new workers (teens, young adults and adults age 25 and over), face similar elevated risks for a work injury. Among very young teens and pre-teens (those under age 15) however, research has shown that physically demanding or cognitively complex work tasks may be inappropriate.
Note: This information has been excerpted from a briefing note from the Institute for Work & Health.