Young worker safety is everyone's responsibility

This spring, members of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health were given the opportunity to attend training sessions offered by Aecon Group to be educated about workplace health and safety. From the beginning it was very clear that we were learning from people who are experienced in the field of injury prevention and passionate about building a safety culture in the workplace. I was particularly impressed with the amount of resources dedicated to workers’ safety through initiatives such as the Young Workers Program and routine Safety Moments.

For myself personally, it was an experience that was both informative and enlightening. We learned that injury prevention models can range from reactive, dependent, independent, to interdependent systems and how ultimately a workplace with people watching out for one another can greatly reduce the incidence of injury. We also looked at risk assessment and methods to evaluate potential dangers; then different ways to act to minimize risk through elimination and control. Among the multiple topics that were addressed during the training, there were many that left a lasting impression, which overall gave me a fresh perspective on injury prevention and the realization that everyone can make a difference in reducing injury in the workplace and beyond. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Aecon’s idea of growing a safety culture in the workplace is very appealing as it provides a supportive environment where workers are not ridiculed for taking safety precautions, nor criticized or singled out as they learn proper safety procedures. I also really like how even the number of small injuries and near-miss incidents are used as quality markers and used to prevent future accidents. It projects their slogan of: “Planning for safety is planning to succeed”. To me, this makes sense because I think that people’s safety is more important than even the speed or quality of a build project. Safety should be everyone’s priority.

As I am in the process of writing this reflection, I recently took a trip outside of Canada and by watching the media elsewhere I am reminded that workplace tragedies are a very real global issue. Statistics provided by Aecon show that around 90% of workplace injuries and mortalities are a result of unsafe actions or conditions. This means that a majority of these incidents can be avoided if managed appropriately. It may not be readily apparent, but those that are affected are not limited to the injured party and their close ones, rather there is significant impact to the work team, the company employer, and even the surrounding community. Safety has an impact on everyone’s life.

Fundamentally, the reoccurring theme and the lesson I have gained as a result of this training is that injury prevention requires participation from everyone. From the community to the workplace, from the old to the young, we need the involvement of everyone to grow a safety culture. In particular, I feel that youth have an increasingly larger role to play in inspiring others in safety and injury prevention. The advantage with youth is that they may be better able to communicate to their peers and develop life-long health and safety habits by learning about injury prevention early. I feel that the days are passing when all youth are imagined to consider themselves immortal – immune to injury; when the word safety is perceived by youth to be analogous to being tedious and boring; and when youth are thought not to be able to appreciate the rationale of safety measures.  I am both hopeful and optimistic regarding our future, and am grateful for Aecon and other like-minded people and organizations who are working to make Canada a great place for young people to work and grow.

Timothy Chung is originally from Richmond, BC and is the lead of Injury Prevention on the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health. He is interested and involved in pre-hospital emergency medicine research and will be studying to be an Advance Care Paramedic in the fall.