Paying with your life; Young workers at risk

Alberta's booming economy, huge influx of workers and lack of safety training on some job sites are causing more workplace accidents among young employees, and too often costing them their lives, say labour advocates.

The Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada states young workers are the most accident-prone in the country, with more than 50,700 workers under the age of 24 losing time from work after being injured in 2006.

Young people, who make up 17 per cent of Alberta's workforce, accounted for almost one-quarter of disabled injury claims in 2006, and those under 25 are 33 per cent more likely to be injured on the job than older workers.

The most recent stats show 51 workplace deaths among young workers across the country.

Most recently, on June 7, Rona employee Mitchell Tanner, 16, was killed after a forklift he was riding on flipped over and crushed him at a location near Edmonton.

Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said that incident was unfortunately not isolated, as young people are more accident-prone on the job because of their inexperience and a lack of health and safety training provided to them.

"It's not a surprise, but the statistics underline the need for an aggressive commitment to health and safety training for young workers because they are the ones most likely to be injured," he said, adding the lack of training is significant in Alberta as it experiences an "unprecedented" influx of people under the age of 25.

Holly Heffernan, interim executive secretary for the Calgary and District Labour Council agreed the economic boom is partially to blame.

"They are coming on to the workforce and getting no orientation - they just give them a hammer and let them go," she said.

The Meridian Booster, Page A10, Fri July 18 2008
Byline: Katie Schneider

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