The right start: Building safe work for young workersOn October 13, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
Workers aged between 15 and 24 years make
up about 18 per cent of the Queensland workforce. 4000 young workers suffer a serious injury
at work each year – that’s an injury that keeps them off work for at least 5 days, and
possibly one that will affect their ability to work for the rest of their life. A serious
injury affects not just the worker, but their colleagues and supervisor, their family and
their friends. As a supervisor or manager of a young worker,
you have the greatest influence on their attitude to work safety. This means ensuring an appropriate
level of supervision relevant to the tasks that they are performing. With a young worker, they normally just come
out of school, so they want to work, they want to earn a bit of money, so they like
to come in and shine, impress straightaway. And to impress, you normally think you need
to get in there and do flat-out work, and that sometimes could create a bit of drama. You try and open up dialogue with them around
what have they actually experienced in their life? If they’ve just been in school and
they’ve just joined us, well, we know we’ve got to look after them that little bit more. We have a lot of dangers in our industry.
They might not look dangerous until you start doing stuff like jumping down steps or whatnot.
You just got to be aware they’ll come up to a hole instead of just taking the way down,
they’d think, “We’ll jump down and get it done quick and easy,” and that’s where
they find themselves in a bit of strife. Young workers have a unique risk profile.
They may not notice when a situation becomes dangerous, or they may misjudge the level
of risk. They may be less likely to ask questions or
raise safety concerns, and they model their behaviour off others – whether that behaviour
is right or wrong. Effective induction, proper training, regular
supervision and support and mentoring is vital for a young worker to adopt the right
attitude to safety and develop safe work practices. Let’s follow two young workers as they go
about their work day, to see how the interactions with their supervisors and their experiences
can differ. This is Adam, he is 19 and lives with his
mum and dad. He’s been working as a civil construction trainee for the last 3 months.
His boss, Ray, values young workers. Ray knows that his business’s safety system needs
to accommodate Adam’s unique risk profile to ensure he is safe at work and is productive
for the business. Ray follows the ‘tell me, show me, watch me’ approach. This is Ryan, he is 21 and he is a first year
apprentice tiler. He has just moved in with his girlfriend Emily. Ryan hopes one day to
be his own boss with his own business. Ryan’s boss, Dan, thinks young workers are often
a hassle, slow and spend more time checking their phones than focusing on their work. Hey Adam, can you come over here for a minute
please mate. I’m just going to get you to do a bit of
work on the excavator today. Ok I know you’ve done your unit of competency but using one
on site is a different story. So what I’m going to get you to do is move that pile of dirt, on that flat – over to here. Yeah
Ok cool. Do you feel comfortable with that?
Alright cool, yeah. Alright, wonderful, we’ll just start off
with a pre-check. So we’ll then jump inside the cab and check
all the controls because they can vary from machine to machine. Ok.
Yep ok And then together we will go through the Safe
Work Method Statement, ok? So you’ve probably seen a SWMS before on other high-risk activities so we’ll still
go through just so that you understand the measures we have in place to ensure the safe
operation of the excavator. Yeah.
So we’ll be doing a few easy navigation tasks, and I’ll be in constant contact and
watching you at all times. Ok just remember the exclusion zone is marked out and if anything
or anyone comes inside that zone you need to immediately stop.
Alright cool. Yep. Any questions?
No, I’m ready to go. Alright. Woah, nice enthusiasm.
Um what do you need to do? Just be moving the excavator around, lift
up the bucket, you’ll be in eye contact just in case anything goes wrong and if anyone
enters the exclusion zone I’ll stop. Excellent, great stuff. Ok reckon you can
handle it? Yeah, definitely.
Alright on you go. Ryan, awesome you can grace us with your presence
from college. Now look mate we’ve got a lot on our plate today. Do you know how to
use a tile cutter? Yes.
Alright good, what about a grinder? uhhhhhh yeah, yeah, we’ve done that.
Alright, good. I need you to head out to the ute and I want you to get the tile cutter
and the grinder and I want you to change the blade on the grinder. Then I want you to make
a dozen cuts with 60 mil trim and then I want you to cut two with 90 mil waste with a 4
inch grinder. You good to do that mate?
Yeah Alright good, let’s get stuck in. And Ryan, no mucking around today mate. We’ve got a lot on our plate alright. Yep Great job, good stuff. Were you comfortable
with that? Yeah, I just stick to the plan and it’s
all sweet. That’s it, that’s what they are there
for. Just do everything according to the book… ok that means following the work plan and
the SWMS. That way we don’t even have any near-misses incidents on this site.
Ok, Any questions? No I’m all good.
What I’m going to do now is get you to do something a little more interesting than that.
I’m just going to get you to move the materials from here over to the stock pile.
Alright. Ok, But first of all I’m going to do a demo
and I want you to watch that closely. I’ll ask you to step outside the exclusion zone
and just watch me carefully, ok. All right. Yeah righto mate that sounds good. But, yeah
look we got a lot on the go at the moment. So hang on a second mate.
Ryan! Ryan! Mate where’s the guard for the grinder? What’s going on with the glasses
and the ear plugs? I thought you knew what you were doing mate.
Yeah, yeah I do, it cos the others don’t have it on, so I thought I didn’t need it
– I’m sorry but like… Head to the back of the trailer and I want
you to get the guard for the grinder and don’t worry about what these other guys are up to.
Ok just focus on what you have to do. I haven’t got time to babysit you today
mate I really need you to get stuck in and get this job done. Ok, then come see me. Alright.
Yeah. Alright sorry about that mate, yeah got a
few dramas with the apprentice. Yeah, no we’ll sort it out, all good. Adam, how did your week at training college
go this week? Oh yeah it was OK. The teachers are alright,
but actually it’s really good using the simulator first. I’d rather be doing real
stuff on site you know. Oh well I’m really glad that you’re enjoying
it. Honestly you’re paying attention cause you’re picking things up really quickly!
Oh thank you. Hey, speaking of college, I probably should
take a look at your training record before you take off hey.
Oh yeah that’d actually be pretty good All right I’ll come with you now.
Sweet No worries. So I hear you play in a band? Ryan, there you are mate. Shipping off early
today. Alright, do you just want me to finish this
up then? Mate a couple of the guys are going to finish
off the ensuite so they’ll shut up shop, but I want you to finish those cuts off put
them in the corner ready for the morning. (Phone rings)
Dan speaking… Ohh ok … um ok so just with this tile placement
do you want me to put it like…. An effective form of inducting a young worker
into a particular task can be using the ‘tell me show me watch me’ approach. So that involves
providing a verbal and written instruction into performing the task. Demonstrating how
to perform it safely and then providing feedback while watching the young worker actually demonstrating the task With our young workers in terms of how we
manage inductions and characteristics of supervision, we think about how they learn, their learning
styles. These days it’s more around about visual rather than just general written communication We’re trying to use more visual aids which
is – oh, that’s in your face rather than some guy reading from the piece of paper.
So induction is really important into a particular task or using a particular piece of equipment,
making sure that the worker is competent in– “performing that work”, that they understand
the work that is going on around them, that they’re supervised. In terms of supervision, we talk about supervisors
being more understanding of how young workers learn. How important it is that they actually
have more interactions with the supervisor on a day-to-day basis rather than being left
alone. We have to have good conversations with them.
“We’ve told you not to use your phone.” “Are you sure you’re alright? “You seem
a bit distracted.” It’s just that another level of engagement with our workforce.
We know that providing mentoring and social support is really important to allow young
workers to engage with their work environment socially. We have a mentoring program that we use on
a regular basis which identifies the supervisor taking more action or someone who’s been
in the industry a long period of time and takes them under their wing and helps them
through their career, probably for the first three to six months. You can usually tell when you first meet someone,
you know, perceptual and you can usually judge out whether someone’s a strong character
or a little bit more reserved. And you sit down and have your one-to-one with
them and “what’s your experience?” and then you start to look at, “hold on, he’d
probably be better going with that guy; he’s a little bit withdrawn and we need to give
him that a little bit more support.” Whereas, you get some youngsters who are very brash,
know-it-all, done-it-all-before and they need a bit of temper and so we put them with one
of our stronger guys who’s probably a little bit more outspoken. Their values are different than older people
that have been in the industry a long period of time. So we try and leverage off those
values and use them to guide them through their decision making throughout their career We also try not to ostracise them and highlight
them by wearing different coloured hats. So they are part of the workforce. The supervisors
really do need to have a one-to-one relationship with them. Proactive initiatives around financial skills,
mental health and wellbeing, physical health and wellbeing, even literacy – those kind
of issues can impact on a young worker’s health and safety…While there may not be directly
a safety initiative, it has positive safety outcomes by engaging young workers within
their work environment. Some of the examples that we’ve seen where
industries engage with their young workers around safety has had really positive outcomes.
So it helps them to understand some of the documentation and systems that they’ve got
in place and why they are important. It’s helped them to understand why they do the
role that they do that way and the dangers that might be associated with those roles. Through effective induction and training,
appropriate supervision and good feedback, and supportive mentoring, young workers will
become more aware of how to do the job safely. Engaging with young workers through consultation
will also enable them to share their ideas around work health and safety and help to
improve the way that safety is managed in your workplace. Unless we get in and support it as an industry,
the importance of the young workers and their interactions and the value they bring, recognising
yes, they are little bit in that risk group of high incidents, however, we can actually
manage risk, no different from any other risk that we see on our sites. The best advice I would give to anybody is
keep open communication and keep talking and make them feel part of what we do. There is a lot to be gained from the young
workers and the information and knowledge that they can impart to us to learn as an
organisation and as industry as a whole.