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September 25, 2006
Adapting Training for a Young Workforce

Because of their age and inexperience, young workers often lack the knowledge, skills, and good judgment to protect themselves from workplace accidents. This means that you have to make up for these deficiencies with safety training specially adapted to the needs of this unique group of employees.

Think about why young workers have job accidents. There are several reasons young workers might be at risk:

  • They may be too inexperienced to recognize hazards. Or, if they do recognize hazards, they may not know that they should report them.
  • They may be unrealistic about their chances of getting hurt and, therefore, take greater risks than other employees.
  • They may fail to ask important safety-related questions because they don't want to look "stupid," or they may be afraid to "bother" the boss.
  • Young, energetic but inexperienced workers, not understanding the consequences of risky behavior, are more likely get involved in dangerous horseplay.
  • They are also less likely to report near misses or accidents--especially those in which there were no injuries or obvious damage--for fear of being disciplined.
Why It Matters...
  • Because of their inexperience, young workers have a harder time identifying workplace hazards and are more likely to take risks than more experienced employees.
  • Young workers have higher rates of nonfatal injuries than any other group of workers.
  • Proper training in hazard identification and safety procedures can prevent these accidents and injuries.

Make sure they get the all information they need. Young and inexperienced workers need to know all the basics, and they need to learn this essential information in orientation and training during their first few days on the job. They need to learn about:

  • General hazards in the work area
  • Specific hazards involved in each task the employee performs
  • Hazards associated with other areas of the facility
  • Company safety policies and work rules
  • Proper safety practices and procedures for preventing accidents
  • The location of emergency equipment like fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, and first-aid supplies
  • Smoking regulations and designated smoking areas
  • Emergency evacuation procedures and routes
  • Who to talk to about safety questions, problems, etc.
  • What to do if there is an accident or injury
  • How to report emergencies, accidents, and near misses
  • How to select, use, and care for personal protective equipment
  • Safe housekeeping rules
  • Facility security procedures and systems
  • How to use tools and equipment safely
  • Safe lifting techniques and materials-handling procedures
  • Safe methods for handling, using, or storing hazardous materials, and the location of MSDSs

Plan for success. When you're planning safety training for young workers, be sure to take the following points into account:

  • Never take prior knowledge for granted. Remember that young and inexperienced employees may pretend to know things they don't know in order to avoid embarrassment.
  • Explain why the training is important and what you expect them to learn.
  • Use a variety of techniques when training to keep the learning process stimulating and engaging.
  • Always demonstrate tasks, procedures, etc., one step at a time.
  • Encourage young trainees to ask a lot of questions.
  • Be sure to allow plenty of time for hands-on activities and practice with actual equipment and materials.
  • Provide handouts such as safety checklists and written job procedure guidelines.
  • Always monitor performance on the job after training to make sure they understood the training and that employees are actually using what they learned correctly.
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