Did you know that today, the 28th of April, is World Day for Safety and Health at Work, and Workers Memorial Day?
While that’s quite a mouthful, it’s an important day that promotes safety and health in the workplace, dually it recognises and honours those who have lost their lives (or lost a loved one) due to a work-related accident, injury or illness.
This year World Day for Safety and Health at Work, and Workers Memorial Day focuses on young workers and future generations – Generation Safe and Healthy. This recognises that young workers (aged 15 – 24 years) make up a substantial portion of the workforce while also seeing higher rates of accident and injury. Safe Work Australia outline that these workers face increased risk of workplace injury because of their lack of experience, maturity and awareness of workplace health and safety responsibilities – their own, their managers, their workplace and their employer.
As a part of this focus, Safe Work Australia have set up a dedicated area on their website reflecting focus areas for working with and training younger workers, including codes and guides as well as videos seminars and podcasts. You can find this here.
In terms of why this group is overexposed to risk, Safe Work Australia outline a number of key factors that contribute to this:
- As previously mentioned – lack of experience, maturity and awareness of WHS responsibilities;
- Unfamiliar with appropriate workplace behaviours;
- Still developing their skills, competencies and physical capabilities;
- They may be reluctant to raise questions, speak out or make requests of their manager or employer;
- The may be overly keen to please or make a good impression, and therefore may bypass safety procedures or undertake unsafe work (potentially at the direction of an employer or manager); and,
- They may be overly confident in their own abilities.
Further to this, they have outlined and developed resources to address the key ways employers can create safe and healthy environments for young workers. They’ve suggested that workplaces can do this by:
- Providing the right training and tools to complete the work safely;
- Educating young workers about their workplace health and safety rights and responsibilities; and,
- Empowering young workers to have the confidence to speak up about potential risks and other health and safety issues in the workplace.
We would add to this by suggesting that the training and awareness doesn’t stop with young workers. Senior workers and managers should receive complimentary training to be made aware of the risks and challenges associated with young workers, so that outside of these training sessions young workers are being looked out for and supported.
In some workplaces, this may also require a culture shift – where workers are used to keeping their heads and hands down, changes may need to be made from the ground up and top down to ensure that those who raise their hands with issues or identified risks are supported rather than ostracised.
If workers do suffer an injury, or workplace related illness – in theses cases, proper channels for making a workers’ compensation claim should be made freely available to these employees and should not be discouraged by employers. Where a worker is left unable to work, this claim (and the WorkCover component of this process) helps support the worker and their family financially, and where the accident was the fault of another, they can access compensation to alleviate the ongoing financial burden this places on them.
The second component of this day is, unfortunately, the tragic loss of life that we see, every year, in the workplace.
For young workers, research shows that worker fatalities for this age group (under 14 – 24) make up 28% of the overall fatalities. This is the highest percentage of any age group, followed by 65 and over, with 23%. These statistics represent data from 2007-2016 and include those workers who; were fatality injured, whose injuries and fatalities resulted from workplace injury or exposure; and whose injuries occurred in Australian territories or territorial waters.
Tragically, as at the 29th of March 2018, 28 Australian workers have lost their lives, due to workplace accident, injury or exposure. Preliminary data shows that 184 workers were killed in 2017, compared with 182 in 2016. Encouragingly, the 28 deaths so far in 2018 are down considerably compared to the same time period in 2017 – down 45% from 51.
While this is a strong drop, there is still much to be done in order to reduce this loss of life and further protect Australian workers. We believe, as we’re sure everyone does, that even one life lost is one too many.
No matter the age of the worker, or the industry they work in, everyone should be safe and protected at work – with the tools and knowledge to work safe, and a workplace that values its workers and proper safety procedures. It’s a shared responsibility and one that is of the utmost importance.