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Young workers not speaking up about unsafe workplaces, study finds

Young workers are more vulnerable to accidents and less likely to raise safety concerns with their employers, according to new research.

Teens especially prone to 'microaccidents' on the job, says paper co-authored by University of Calgary expert

A study published in the Journal of Safety Research says young workers are more vulnerable to accidents and less likely to raise safety concerns with their employers. (iStockPhoto)

Young workers are more vulnerable to accidents and less likely to raise safety concerns with their employers, according to new research.

The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Safety Research, looked at more than 19,000 people between the ages of 15 and 25 from across the country over a four-week period.

One third of the young people surveyed said they had one minor workplace injury — or "microaccident" — in the last month, says Haskayne School of Business professor Nick Turner, who co-authored the paper with two colleagues at the University of Regina and St. Mary's University.

"It could just be in the face of minor injuries they just don't think it's worth saying anything," he said.

"Our larger concern is when they recognize dangerous work or routines that don't enable the safest way of working, these concerns should be taken seriously."

The incidence of microaccidents was the highest among the youngest workers, aged 15 to 18. And those workers spoke up less frequently in the face of dangerous work and reported neglecting work safety rules more frequently than their older counterparts, the research found.

Young men speak up more

The study also found that while young males reported the same frequency of microaccidents as young females, young males said they spoke up more often about dangerous work, but also neglected work safety rules more often than young females.

Turner says although work-related training for young workers is especially important, it can get missed because of the often informal work young people do, such as babysitting or lawn-mowing.

"In some ways they get lost between the cracks," he said.

The report says a safe working environment is the result of adult supervisors showing staff they care and listening to their concerns.

"Parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and co-workers can all help entrench the importance of work and attitudes of work in young workers, but when it comes to workplace safety, our research is showing it is the adult figure of influence in the workplace — the supervisor — who is the most important social influence," said Turner.

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