The recent rise in the price of oil has been good news for the energy and construction sectors in Alberta. As more projects have kicked off this year, many companies have noticed they are struggling to recruit enough qualified labour. A lot of workers retired the past few years and others have simply left the industry since the 2014 recession looking for more stable employment. To fill the demand, many employers are looking to younger workers to fill the employment gap. As we welcome Generation Z into the workforce, keep in mind the specific challenges that face these workers.
Young workers are at an increased risk of injury compared to older workers. New workers under the age of 25 are more than twice as likely to be injured as new workers over that age.* This is due to many factors: inexperience, inadequate training, and increased exposure to dangerous jobs. One major factor to keep in mind is that young workers often won’t admit that they don’t know how to do a task because they believe it will make them look foolish or inexperienced.
Given this, young workers should be given extra attention by their supervisor. Ensure they are aware of all the health and safety hazards in their surroundings. Teach them their rights and responsibilities on the job site, especially their 3 basic rights:
- The Right to Know the hazards on the jobsite, how they have been controlled, and what steps the worker needs to take to control them further, i.e. safe work procedures, PPE, receiving additional training, etc.
- The Right to Participate in the company’s health and safety program as well as any decisions that could affect their own health and safety.
- The Right to Refuse unsafe work and the procedure for how to do so, i.e. notifying their supervisor, stating reason for refusal, and allowing supervision time to investigate.**
Another way to ensure the safety of young workers is to develop a field mentoring system for new workers. Assigning a mentor and having an established process, a set frequency for milestones and tasks to cover with new workers ensures that employers meet their due diligence in regard to informing new workers of the hazards associated with their work. It also creates or compliments a competency evaluation program to meet an employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees are not just trained but also deemed competent to do the work tasks assigned to them.
When assigning a mentor, it’s important the mentor is willing and has the communication and leadership skills to properly train the worker and provide a comfortable environment for asking questions. Ensure that when the worker is corrected, it is done in a coaching manner and not a negative one. Young workers should be encouraged to learn from their mistakes and move on with the confidence that they will get it right the next time.
Training is especial crucial for young workers. They need to be taught all the same material as their peers and potentially be given extra information that most people might assume is common sense. If the young worker is injured on the job, the employer can’t fall back on the commonsense argument. Hazards, proper controls, and company procedures are only common sense if you know them. Get comfortable pointing out seemingly obvious things. Young workers often won’t ask or even know to ask.
Lastly, it’s important to build a positive relationship with your young workers. Ask them questions about their background, experience, and interests. Share with them stories from when you were first getting into the industry and what you have learned over the years that could help them get up to speed quicker. If you show a genuine interest in them, they will feel more comfortable coming to you when they have a problem or a question.