Thursday, December 8, 2011

More on the safety of young workers

I ran across a couple of more interesting articles about OHS and young workers while revising a paper. Both are from the International journal of occupational and environmental health.

In “The unique developmental considerations of youth related work injuries,” Sudhinaraset and Blum provide a useful outline the research on the physical and cognitive differences between youth and adult workers. These differences are often posited to contribute to the higher rate of injury typically seen among young workers.

In “A commentary on the unique development considerations of youth,” Breslin and Smith provide an interesting analysis of how the differences in the types of jobs youth hold account for a large portion of the differences in injury rates between adult and young workers. This raises the question of whether the cognitive differences between youth and adults (long posited to explain higher injury rates among youth) are really all that important given the labour market niche occupied by youth. Breslin and Smith also suggest that inexperience (which is distinct from, but often correlated with, age) may explain higher injury rates among young.

This commentary is important because it suggests that factors such as unfamiliarity with work tasks and unsafe work tasks may be more important that age-related cognitive differences in predicting injury. These generic factors are remediable through interventions (e.g., orientation, marketing campaigns, targeted inspection) that alter the context in which youth work.

-- Bob Barnetson

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