Young Workers in the Workforce
Young Workers in the Workforce
Imagine this scene – a 18-year-old has just started his first full-time job. It’s in a factory or warehouse environment and he’s just got his forklift licence, before even his driver’s license.
So here we have this totally cool young kid, on a forklift, in an environment teaming with people – and he’s essentially driving a vehicle with two large swords fitted to the front.
This could be a scene from the next Mad Max movie!
All joking aside, the point of this little scene playout is to highlight that we have an ever-increasing number of young workers entering into the job force – more so in trades, manufacturing and logistics.
The typical age group for this new crop of talent is 15-24. These young people, both male and female, bring with them bubbling energy, fresh perspectives and new ideas – which is great for the work place.
Yet at the same time, this younger workforce is also at greater risk of workplace injury due to their lack of experience and maturity (and I really use this word with the utmost sincerity).
And equally concerning, is the potential for harm that they may accidentally inflict on their fellow workers – think forklift out of control, forklift lifting a load beyond its capacity, forklift running into someone…you get the gist.
By no means am I having a go at our younger workforce – on the contrary, I’m trying to highlight the fact that our younger workforce may not be fully aware and conscious of WHS risks and responsibilities that come along with the job and that they are at risk of serious injury – sooner if not later.
And while I speak of logistics and manufacturing – I would suggest equally at risk are young office workers, such as those who take up office-based intern positions during their studies.
Sometimes, much is expected from new young workers coming into the workplace and in many instances, there are undue expectations in terms of work output.
Think for a moment about a typical 18 year old coming into a full-time work place;
- They are very most likely still developing their skills and competencies
- They are unfamiliar with the right forms of work place behaviour
- For sure, they don’t want to look incompetent – so may not ask the right questions or speak out if there are problems
- They will be very keen to please and make a good impression
- And because of their age demographic – they tend to be over confident when it comes to their capabilities
All of the these are just the right ingredients for workplace mishaps.
How do we ensure minimal workplace injuries for our younger workers?
In a few words…
It’s All About Leadership!
As employers, supervisors, managers and of course, safety managers, you have the greatest influence on their attitude to safety and safe work practices.
They key to instilling safe work practices into our younger workforce is mindset – more specifically, a safety-first mindset.
You can help create safe and healthy environments for young workers simply by:
- providing the right tools, training and supervision to complete their work safely
- educating them about their WHS rights and responsibilities
- empowering them to have the confidence to speak up about health and safety in the workplace, and
- fostering a positive workplace culture that engages young workers in WHS related issues – like open suggestions, townhall talks, feedback sessions and the like.
The skills and more importantly, the attitude of safe work practices is very portable – meaning, they are not specific to any one company or industry, rather, they are universal.
The right skills and attitude in relation to safety picked up by that 18 year-old will be carried by her or him as they progress through their working life.
In the end, the most poignant message you can ever give to your employees is that someone is waiting for their loved one to come back home at the end of the day – it’s both the worker’s and the boss’s job to make sure this happens.
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