Recognizing Your Vulnerability

YoungworkerBack in March 2016, we published a blog post titled “Measuring Vulnerability“. In it, we introduced you to some important research about worker vulnerability and what it means to young workers.

With many young people starting temporary summer jobs, we think it is important to reiterate some of the ways that you are more vulnerable than others to workplace injuries.

Worker vulnerability can be measured along four dimensions:

  • level of hazards faced by the worker;
  • workplace- or organization-level protection and policies;
  • worker awareness of occupational hazards and rights and responsibilities; and
  • worker empowerment to participate in injury prevention.

Young workers and, particularly, those who are working new jobs and temporary jobs are highly vulnerable along the last two dimensions – awareness and empowerment. When you are new to a job, you may not be aware of all of the hazards. You may also be eager to impress or hesitant to ask questions. Unfortunately, these things make you vulnerable. It is of vital importance that you ask questions, look around you, learn about the hazards and learn how to stay safe. You can’t just assume that you will be told everything you need to know, or assume that if you’re not explicitly warned about something that it isn’t dangerous.

As you begin your summer job, take the time to look around for yourself and consider what hazards you might encounter. Be wary of continuing at a workplace that does not offer you proper training and orientation in your first few days. Ask more experienced workers, such as your supervisor, any questions that are not answered in your orientation. Do not perform work that you have not been properly trained for and do not know how to do. Do not perform work using faulty equipment or without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Do not hesitate to ask questions or to speak up about things that make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

By being aware of the hazards and your rights and responsibilities, and by empowering yourself to take charge of your own safety by asking questions and speaking up, you will significantly reduce your risk of injury. No job, no paycheck, is worth risking your health or safety for.

Check out our recent job post “Staying Safe at Your Summer Job” for tips on how you can stay safe while working outside in the summer.