Money trumps job safety for many young workers in Manitoba

Job safety is secondary to money for many young workers, but a new campaign from SAFE Work Manitoba is aimed at changing that.

SAFE Work Manitoba ran fake ads and interviews for unsafe jobs, but attracted real candidates

SAFE Work Manitoba recently ran a number of bogus ads on Kijiji and other social media sites for jobs that were obviously not safe. Those ads attracted more than 2,500 responses, the agency says. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

Job safety is secondary to money for many young workers, but a new campaign from SAFE Work Manitoba is aimed at changing that.

The public agency recently ran a number of bogus ads on Kijiji and other social media sites for obviously unsafe jobs.

One, for a construction helper, stated that the employer might not have protective equipment and that the employee might need to teach themselves some tasks on the job. Another was for a convenience worker, advising potential employees that they might need to work alone through the night.

"It was overwhelming. We had, in two weeks, over 2,500 responses from young workers that were willing to take a risky job for higher pay," said Jamie Hall, chief operating officer of SAFE Work Manitoba.

In the end, 40 people were invited to interviews, which were captured on video.

For some candidates, the amount of pay didn't matter much, just as long as they got enough money to pay the bills.

One person, who was told there would likely be no safety training, told the interviewer, "I think I can figure things out on my own."

"[It] doesn't matter if I'm being paid minimum or more, as long as I'm being paid in the end and I can pay my bills, I'm happy," he added.

Hall said that's not an uncommon answer, but he shivers every time he hears it.

All applicants were asked about the most dangerous thing they'd be willing to do to make sure the work is completed quickly and effectively

"If there's no bones or blood, I'm good. I can handle bruises and bumps," one respondent said.

Another told the interviewer that he once had three nails through his foot during a summer job but that he was still fine with not having any safety training.

Hall said the campaign was prompted by a University of Manitoba study a couple years ago that revealed young workers are motivated by money, won't likely speak up about safety issues and are influenced by their supervisors.

Safety must be priority

SAFE Work Manitoba says it wanted to show, in a real way, how far people were willing to go. The hope is it will jolt employers, parents and the young people looking for work, and get them all to realize that safety must be a priority.

​On average, Manitoba sees about 5,000 injuries each year to workers between 15 and 24. In the past decade, 17 young people have died on the job, according to the agency.

At the end of their interviews, applicants were told about the true purpose and asked if their video footage could be used for the campaign. Some opted out but others agreed.

Everyone was given an honorarium for their participation and given some time to meet with HR professionals to get advice on interviews and resumes.

SAFE Work Manitoba also worked to connect the applicants with real job interviews. Two of the participants did land work, Hall said.

You can watch some of the interviews and read interview tips on SAFE Work Manitoba's website.