28 Mar Walking the Talk
Do as I say, not as I do.
It’s one of those sayings that regularly haunts us. Parents and other adult influencers of young people are constantly getting busted for ‘not practicing what they preach.’ This could be anything from smoking to exercising regularly to wearing a bicycle helmet. It’s an instant credibility killer with young people. In the workplace, it can have ramifications that kill in more literal terms.
While we hope the people that our young worker kids report taking health and safety seriously, there are situations where they might not exactly be the best role models. This can take many forms depending on the workplace. It could be a roofer who does not wear proper fall arrest equipment when he or she is up high, a landscaper operating loud equipment who does not wear hearing protection or a warehouse supervisor who doesn’t always wear safety shoes.
Unfortunately, young people do model their behavior on those that are in their sphere of influence. Regardless of how much training they get in health and safety including specific instruction on the correct use of equipment or personal protective gear, that may go out the window once they are in the field. If you see your boss on a ladder balancing his legs against the rungs while having both arms overhead installing a light fixture, you may do the same when it’s your turn. This, regardless of the training you received explicitly detailing the need to maintain three points of contact at all times.
As a parent, you can do something about this.
Get a sense of the attitudes towards workplace safety at your kid’s job. Ask them about it. Do their bosses take safety seriously? Do they set a good example? Have they seen them taking shortcuts at the expense of their safety? Keep in mind that your seventeen-year old’s boss may be eighteen. Find out more about the people to whom they report.
Here’s the big one: have their bosses asked that their staff take unnecessary risks? One example would be to expect a young roofer to get back up a ladder at the end of a shift to retrieve a hammer without donning fall arrest equipment because the motor on the truck is running.
The above example could be a good topic for discussion. What would they do? Would they refuse to do it? Would they feel they might alienate their boss and do it even though they knew it was dangerous?
This would be a good time to discuss their worker rights including the right to refuse unsafe work. They need to know that these rights are not just idle words in the Act. They are there to protect them and need to be put into action should they be concerned about their safety.
They can’t hear this enough and as individuals who care about their well-being, we need to emphasize this over and over.