Manufacturing is certainly the most diverse sector where young workers can find employment. In Ontario this sector includes metal fabrication, printing, chemical, plastics, automotive and in some regions, pulp and paper. The growing high tech industry often falls under manufacturing with Ontario being home to one of the largest solar panel companies in the world, as one example. It is also an area particularly hazardous to young workers given how foreign work environments are compared to service sector workplaces like restaurants or retail.


Machine Hazards: Machines are a prime source of injuries in the manufacturing sector with their moving parts, pinch points and other hazardous characteristics.


Musculoskeletal Disorders: Between fabrication, assembly, distribution and countless other processes, manufacturing facilities are locations where there is the potential to sustain any number of musculoskeletal injuries.  From lifting heavy raw materials to the repetition of assembly, there are no shortage of opportunities to strain muscles through awkward lifts or sustain repetitive stress injuries repeating a simple assembly process hour after hour.


Slips, Trips & Falls: There are often a multitude of processes occurring simultaneously on manufacturing production floors.  Raw materials and partially finished products are constantly moved from station to station. With all this activity, the danger of slips, trips and falls are ever present. Young workers need to be on their toes and be vigilant about their surroundings.  It is important that they look out for stray packaging on the floor,  slippery surfaces due to liquid spills, objects protruding from shelves and uneven surfaces.

Working at Heights:  Whether on the production floor or in the warehouse, there may be situations where young workers are asked to retrieve items from above ground level locations. It is important that they understand safe ladder use. Even a fall from a step ladder can result in a fracture or a concussion.  Operation of powered lifts should not be undertaken unless they have been properly trained.


Mobile Equipment:  Mobile equipment like forklifts and other vehicles are potentially hazardous to drivers and pedestrians alike. Proper training is essential before young workers agree to operate any motorized equipment. When working around mobile equipment young workers need to both look and listen at all times to protect themselves from harm.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):  Every manufacturing facility has its own unique hazards that necessitate the use of PPE as needed. This includes hearing protection for facilities that incorporate machinery that operate at high volumes. Even equipment that does not sound loud can cause permanent hearing loss if it is sustained over hours. Eye protection may be a requirement around specific pieces of equipment or required at all times. Foot protection is PPE that is required at almost all manufacturing facilities.

Chemical Exposure:  Manufacturing facilities often use chemicals in production processes, not to mention to clean machinery and the facilities. Young workers should be aware of WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System). It is an essential resource they should be well aware of relating to the handling and use of hazardous materials.  Another resource associated with chemicals are Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS.  These are specific documents related to chemicals in use at their specific workplaces. They are available to all employees and are essential reading prior to working with chemicals.


Find out about the type of equipment that is used in the facility where your young worker is employed.


Ask about the types of tasks they are performing and whether they have been trained.


Find out if any of these tasks are repetitive or require awkward movements or heavy lifting.  Are they encouraged to take regular breaks?  Do they take breaks?


Is the facility neat?  Is there lots of garbage lying around, messy shelving units, puddles on the floor or other indicators of a workplace that is not operated in a disciplined manner?

Have they been given WHMIS training? Have they been shown MSDS binders related to any chemicals to which they may come in contact?


Is there motorized equipment in the facility?  Do they operate it? When seatbelts are required, do they wear them? Do their bosses wear them?


How do they feel about their supervisors. Unfortunately not all supervisors are deemed ‘competent’ under the Health and Safety Act. Because of that, they may not know how to adequately train new workers on the hazards associated with the work.

Does the workplace take a disciplined approach to PPE. Are they expected to wear safety footwear? Do they own these boots?  Note: Even if their workplace doesn’t expect workers to wear safety boots, they are a wise purchase, are generally very durable and will come in handy at home when moving furniture or doing other tasks where foot injury is a possibility.


Psychosocial hazards like bullying and sexual harassment are considered workplace hazards as well.  Please read the section on Psychosocial Hazards and gently probe to find out if they are a factor at your young worker’s job.


And find out if they are aware of their worker’s rights, especially the right to refuse unsafe work.  Ask them if they know who their H&S representative or JH&SC members are and how to contact them. A young person may not feel comfortable asking their supervisor, and the H&S person(s) may be an invaluable resource for them. If they say that they were not told about the H&S rep or committee, that would be a red flag to me concerning the level of orientation training they received.

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