Advice for Young and New Workers

DF SafetyManagement and Leadership

This is an interesting time of life for me. I am watching all three of my children grow into young adults and get out on their own. My youngest, Tony, has got a job out of town and is working for a log home company in southern Alberta. Of course, some of the questions I asked him after he started were about safety. Did you get an orientation? Are you getting training on all of the pieces of equipment that you are working on? Thankfully, his answer was yes, he was. I was very happy to hear that the company was looking after him! It would be heartbreaking to see harm come to one of my children.

So, Tony is the inspiration for my post today about young and new workers. They need a lot of looking after! Here are some statistics pulled from Workplace injury, illness and fatality statistics : provincial summary 2019 (alberta.ca). In short, young people had the highest disabling injury rates, particularly young males of 15-24 years old. Young males have a higher rate of injury than any other category. Young workers are at risk due to a number of factors. The report cites inexperience, lack of adequate training and increased exposure to dangerous jobs. I would certainly agree with these conclusions, but I would add one more… fear of embarrassment.

I actually reflected on this last year when I was taking a Black Badge Course. If you are not familiar, it is a two day live fire safety course for competitive handgun shooting. I had just bought a new firearm and it came with a device to speed up loading of the magazine. I had no idea how it worked, so I threw out the question to my fellow shooters. Happily, a 19 year old woman who had been shooting for many years came to my rescue and I was soon using the speed loader. If I had been in my early 20’s, I am willing to bet that I would never have admitted to not knowing how to use that or any other tool. Instead, I would likely have never mentioned that it is was in my gun case, much less ask for and accept help. At that age, I was definitely afraid of looking foolish and being seen as young and not experienced.

So, when it comes to young workers, here are a few tips:

  • A mentor program will work wonders! Buddy the young worker up with an experienced worker, one that you know likes to train and mentor. This will give the young worker a safe and easy person to talk to that is not necessarily their supervisor.
  • Training, training and more training. Training can be formal classroom style and that is great, but don’t underestimate learning by doing under controlled circumstances. There are always plenty of opportunities to train someone!
  • Ask questions. My experience with youth is that a lot of them won’t ask. They will try to figure it out themselves and muddle through it. Find out what they know and fill in the knowledge gaps for them.
  • Build relationships. If the first time you talk to someone is a correction or teaching, it might not be as well received as it would be if you had a bit of a relationship before that. Get to know people that work for you and with you. Show interest!
  • Lastly, one of my favourite things to talk about is that we should always leave people with as much dignity as we can. This applies to correction, and it also applies to teaching. Never make a person feel foolish, never make a person feel ashamed. Watch your words! A little humor, used judiciously can also go a long way towards making teaching or correction comfortable.

That is all for this week! All the best to you, and all the best to your young workers! – Dave Ferro