Summer job season is here. With it, comes a warning from WorkSafeBC to young workers about their vulnerability to injuries when entering a new workplace.
In 2021, WorkSafeBC accepted 7,125 young worker injury claims, according to a recent news release.
This number, up 17 per cent from 2020, represents a number of issues young workers can face when starting a new job, according to Jacqueline Holmes, manager of prevention field services at WorkSafeBC.
“More than half of all serious injuries occur during the first six months of employment,” Holmes said. “Injuries can result from inadequate training, orientation, and supervision, inexperience, or a reluctance to speak up, ask questions, and raise health and safety concerns.”
According to data from WorkSafeBC, young workers in the service sector were injured the most in 2021, with 2,801 claims accepted. The retail and wholesale sector had the second-most claims, followed by construction, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing.
The number of claims was up 17 per cent from 2020, which saw an abnormally low number of injury claims that can likely be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Alexandra Skinner, a WorkSafeBC media relations person.
Since 2017, 16 young workers have died in workplace incidents in B.C.
Despite the most recent increase in claims, data shows that injuries have actually decreased significantly over the past 20 years.
In 2007, the Occupational Health & Safety Regulation was introduced to help protect young workers. Since this regulation was introduced, the injury rate per 100 young has dropped from 3.5 in 2007, to 2.2 in 2020, according to data from WorkSafeBC.
However, with over 7,000 injury claims still being accepted almost every year for the past five years, WorkSafeBC is cautioning young workers to be vigilant about their rights.
“It is every worker’s right to refuse unsafe work. Young workers should speak to their supervisors if they feel a task might be hazardous,” Holmes said.
Punishing or firing employees for refusing unsafe work is illegal, according to Canada’s Labour Code. Employers also have a legal responsibility to ensure adequate training and supervision are given to all new workers, under the Workers Compensation Act.
WorkSafeBC is encouraging young workers to speak to their supervisors if they’re concerned for their safety.
“Trust your gut— it’s okay to say, ‘I need more training before I am comfortable’ or ‘This doesn’t feel safe,’” Holmes said.