Looking Back With an Eye to the Future

Your working child has just wrapped up their summer job. What can you learn that will protect them from injury in the future?

You are very proud that your kid has successfully completed a whole summer of working; didn’t get fired and made a substantial amount of money to go towards their education. What’s more is that they have actually been invited back for next summer.

You know that they could hold a job and you know how much money they made. Do you know if they were safe? Were they protected from harm in their work environment?

There is no better time than now, while their experiences are fresh in their mind, to find out about their working conditions.

Start by asking them about their workdays; what their tasks were. In your mind’s eye, imagine the hazards that they may have faced. If they describe working on roofs, ask if they wore a harness. If you found out their summer camp job involved rebuilding cabins, ask if they were offered steel toed boots or other personal protective equipment. You may find out they had to take out moldy fiberglass insulation. Were they offered masks, gloves or goggles?

And don’t just focus on the physical hazards. Ask them about the people with whom they worked. Did anyone make them feel uncomfortable? Did they feel bullied or harassed in any way?

Once you have a clearer picture of what their workplace was like and any hazards they faced, you can have a conversation about their safety and what they can do next summer if they are planning to return. The range of actions can include bringing their own personal protective equipment (PPE) such as steel toed boots, hearing protection, etc. They should also feel empowered to refuse unsafe work and demand the proper PPE. Remind them of their rights as workers that protect their safety. They should not feel they have to get up on a roof without a harness or do anything else their gut tells them is unsafe.

If they have had unpleasant interactions with co-workers or bosses that caused them undue stress, these hazards should be taken just as seriously as physical hazards. These psychosocial hazards are recognized as being just as debilitating as those physical and your working child needs to feel supported in dealing with them. If they have been seriously impacted, they may need professional support in dealing with them now. As well, they may need to hear a voice of reason asking them if they should put themselves in those circumstances again next summer. Of course, if the harassment crossed lines such as any kind of assault, greater actions should be considered ranging from contacting senior management at their workplace to calling law enforcement.

Take the time to get a recap of your young worker’s summer experiences. Hopefully they’ll be positive. If not entirely so, you’ll be in a good position to offer guidance that will serve them well in both the short and long run.

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