As the school year comes to an end and more young people enter the workforce, the Department of Labour and Advanced Education and WCB Nova Scotia are encouraging workers and employers to make workplace safety a priority.
For workers between the ages of 15 and 24, more than 40 per cent of all injuries happen between June and September. In the past five years, three young workers went to work and never came home.
In 2017, of the 23,952 workers injured in Nova Scotia WCB-covered workplaces, 3,179 were young workers and 527 of them were hurt seriously enough to need three days or more off work. While this number has steadily decreased from 647 in 2015, there is still progress to be made.
Youth are most often hurt working in retail and hospitality, and frequently hurt in manufacturing and construction. Being struck by an object and overexertion are the two most common causes of injury in young workers.
In 2013, Cody Ross was working as a heavy equipment operator on a drilling and blasting project when a heavy piece of steel fell on his hand. He was 26 at the time and just four months into his new job.
“It was terrifying not knowing if I lost my hand or fingers or how serious the damage was,” Ross said.
The injury crushed his fingers and severed the thumb on his left and dominant hand. In the years since, Cody has had 14 surgeries and therapy to help him cope with the trauma. Unable to return to his former job, he decided on a career in occupational health and safety.
“I’ve been through it. I’m a walking example of what can happen,” says Mr. Ross. “I want to try to prevent these things from happening to anyone else.”
“Everyone has a role to play when it comes to creating a safety culture – from parents, to employers, to workers,” said WCB Nova Scotia CEO Stuart MacLean. “Young workers are invaluable members of our workforce and the future of this province. Employers need to ensure all workers receive adequate safety training and understand their rights and responsibilities.
“Parents need to keep the conversation going at home, and I encourage workers to ask questions and make sure they only do something if they can do it safely.”