Thursday, February 28, 2013

Research: Regulation of safety among young workers

I’ve run across two studies about young workers and workplace safety this past week that are worth a look.

Teenage work: Its precarious and gendered nature” examines the workplace experiences of youth in British Columbia. The author finds that BC’s regulatory mechanisms are inadequate to deal with the working conditions faced by BC teens. Of specific concern were the few remedies available for dangerous working conditions, harassment, excessive or inappropriate hours of work or problems with pay.

Waiting for safety: Responses by young Canadian workers to unsafe work” examines how young workers in Ontario and Manitoba react to workplace hazards using the voice, exit, patience and neglect typology. Most recent workplace safety campaigns in Canada seek to inform young workers of their rights and thus trigger voice activity around safety hazards. What this study found is that young workers are reluctant to give voice to their concern (related to fear of being fired, among other factors) and thus workers tend to adopt patience strategies (i.e., hoping something will change). Where voice activity is unsuccessful, young workers tend to revert to patience or adopt neglect strategies rather than continue to agitate for change.

One common theme in these articles is that complaint-driven enforcement of workplace rights doesn’t appear to be particularly effective or realistic. This is not a new or particularly startling conclusion yet it is wildly ignored by policy makers.

-- Bob Barnetson

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