Young people - our future!

Zinta Podniece

We all know that, but more thoughts are with them on International Youth Day - 12 August. How can we protect our young workers? Support them when it is needed? And the most relevant - how can we equip them with knowledge, skills and abilities to appreciate important values such as their health and safety?

For young people the workplace is a new environment that they have just started to become acquainted with. On the one hand it can bear dangers to the young workers, if safety and health measures are ignored. Data suggest that young workers are more exposed to noise, vibrations, heat and cold, and the handling of dangerous substances. Physically demanding work factors (such as handling heavy loads) seem to be more common among young workers contributing to development of musculoskeletal disorders. They are also at greater risk of having an occupational accident - the incidence rate of non-fatal accidents at work was more than 40 % higher among those aged 18–24. Young men especially appear to be a risk group for safety at work.

However, on the other hand the workplace can be a place where young people are helped to improve their health and well-being. In our information materials we have addressed both aspects - health and safety at work and health promotion of young workers. And in 2006, we ran a Europe-wide campaign to promote a “Safe Start” for young people.

This year International Youth Day focuses on “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”. It is exactly in line with our approach of workers’ involvement and social dialogue. Only joint efforts will lead to healthy work! We provide information for the employers on how to protect the health and safety of young workers and promote their well-being; for the young workers about the value of health and how to stay well; for their parents on how to make sure that their children are safe at work; and for other relevant persons. We also have information about educating school pupils on risks, so they arrive at work on the first day ready to cooperate in a health and safety matters.

In addition, a lot of good practice information such as case studies and useful links are available on our website along with the relevant publications.

Let’s work together to keep our young people safe, healthy and empowered!