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Study: Young workers in Canada less likely to refuse dangerous work

Safety training is important in every workplace. In order to develop effective safety policies that protect employees from dangerous situations and guard employers from liability, employers may need to take into account a variety of factors, including workers' specific skills and experience.

Employees in Canada have a right to refuse dangerous work, but ongoing research suggests that one group -- young workers -- may be less likely than older workers to refuse dangerous work and voice safety concerns to supervisors.

Researchers from the University of Calgary, the University of Regina and St. Mary's University in Halifax are studying how workplace safety among young workers is influenced by the behaviour of supervisors.

The study, which looks at more than 19,000 young workers throughout Canada, has already found that about 33 per cent of young, part-time workers had experienced a work-related injury in the last month. Researchers also found that young workers are less likely than their older counterparts to know what to do when a hazardous workplace situation arises.

The study distinguishes between "micro-accidents" -- injuries that do not result in lost work time -- and more serious injuries. Of all of the young workers sampled, those who were aged 15 to 18 were the most likely to have experienced a micro-accident. The same workers were also less likely than older workers to report safety concerns to supervisors.

Interestingly, workers in the 15 to 18 age range were found to have neglected workplace safety rules more often than their older counterparts.

According to the researchers, the study is showing that adult supervisors who emphasize the importance of workplace safety can greatly influence young employees to work safely and speak up about unsafe working conditions.

The study is ongoing and will be published in June in the Journal of Safety Research.

For more on legal issues related to workplace accidents and workers' compensation, please see Overholt Law's occupational health and safety overview.

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