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Young Workers Need to Know the Risks

All young workers need to be fully advised of their legal rights to work in a safe environment. Youth are at a particularly high risk, usually working part-time jobs with little or no safety training. Statistics confirm that young workers are at the highest risk of accident, injury, or illness on the job.

In Canada in 1997, 62 young workers were killed and 60,800 were injured.

Most injuries happen in the first three months on the job.

Youth workers do have rights - they need to know what these rights are in order to use them: Under provincial health and safety legislation, they have the following rights:

to know about health and safety hazards in their workplace to participate in health and safety decisions, inspections and training to refuse to do work that they have reason to believe is unsafe.

Questions that all young workers need to ask! When starting a new job, every young worker should inquire:

    What are the dangers and hazards on the job? Will I get training for the job I'm going to do? Is there protective clothing or equipment that I should be wearing? What are the dangers of the machinery or equipment I'll be using? Are there dangers from any of the chemicals I'll be using? Will I get health and safety training? Who can I talk to about health and safety questions? What are my legal rights under the Health & Safety Act?

Any of these people can give them this needed information:

    Their union representative The health and safety committee or health and safety representative Their supervisor Their co-op teacher The Workers Health and Safety Centre can also help with valuable information

Injury causing accidents can happen anywhere at anytime... In happens when working in retail and grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, manufacturing plants, mining and construction sites, landscaping, warehouses, office environments - there are real dangers in every workplace. Most injuries to young workers do however; still take place in the service industry - places where most young workers tend to start their working life as store clerks, table servers, cooks, cleaners and general help. It's important to remember that despite their youthful energy and physical strength, young workers are definitely not immune to being permanently injured or disfigured on the job.

What all workers, including young workers should do if hurt on the job:Get immediate first aid.

    Report the injury to your supervisor and union rep. See your own doctor, even if you have already seen a company doctor. If you need medical aid, make sure your supervisor has filed a report with the WSIB or the equivalent Workers Compensation Board in your province. Fill out and return promptly any forms sent to you by the Workers' Compensation Board. If you need help with any of these forms, see your union representative asap. Be sure to keep copies of all documents.


The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

Under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, 1978


  1. Worker reports problem to supervisor and remains in a safe place

What you should say: I have reason to believe that by performing the work which you have asked me to perform, I am likely to endanger myself or fellow worker and I therefore, am refusing to do the particular work in question, under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, for the following reasons.... Please, investigate in the presence of my health & safety rep.

2.    Supervisor, worker's safety rep/committee member and worker investigate situation

What you should do: After stating your reasons for refusing, remain in a safe place near your work station until the employer investigation has taken place

3.       Worker returns to work if he/she deems situation no longer dangerous.

If after the investigation or any steps taken to deal with the circumstances, you continue to believe that by performing the work you are likely to endanger yourself or another worker, you may continue to refuse to work.

4.       Worker continues to refuse if the work is still unsafe.

What you should say:"I have reasonable ground to believe that by performing the work, I am likely to endanger myself or another worker and i therefore, am continuing to refuse and I ask you to notify an inspector immediately or if not, to permit or a person from the union to do so on my behalf.

5.       Worker stays in safe place during your normal working hours.  Only after the inspector has been notified, may your employer assign you to reasonably alternative work or give you other directions.

Assignment of other workers: After the inspector has been notified, no other worker should be assigned to do the work which was the subject of the refusal unless the worker has been advised of the prior refusal, in the presence of a worker health & safety representative.

6.       Ministry of Labour Inspector requested by work, worker's safety rep or employer investigates refusal

7.       Inspector conducts investigation in presence of all parties

8.       Worker may be assigned alternative work pending investigations & decisions

9.       Inspector issues written decision

10.       Work returns to work following completion of required action.


  1. What are the company health and safety rules or policy?
  2. Is there a worker health & safety rep, or joint health & safety Committee?
  3. What are the hazards in the job? In the workplace?
  4. What procedures do you have to control the hazards?
  5. Are there any regular health & safety meetings?
  6. Are there any designated substances in the workplace? Where?
  7. Will I get safety training for this job? WHMIS training? When?
  8. Is there an occupational health & safety specialist in the workplace? Who?
  9. What safety gear will I be expected to wear? When will I be trained in how to use it?
  10. Will I be trained in emergency procedures? {fire, chemical, spill etc.}. When?
  11. Where are the fire extinguishers, first aid kits, & other emergency equipment located?
  12. If injured, what should I do? Who is the trained first aider in my work area?
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