14/07/2011

Youth occupational safety high on the agenda

Sarah Copsey

The 12th of August sees International Youth Day and tragically, and with an enormous cost to society, young workers continue to have more than 50% more non-fatal accidents than other age groups according to EU figures. So the occupational safety and health of young people remains high on the agenda. And the past few weeks have been quite an active time for policy discussion on this topic.

In May the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board Resolution 128/15 Child Injury Prevention of 24 January 2011 went for ratification. It includes wording to remind countries of their obligations to prevent child labour and address risks at work faced by young people under 18.  The 11th recommendation on child injury protection (EB128.R15) concerns the need “to raise awareness and health literacy, in particular child safety among parents, children, employers and relevant professional groups about risk factors for child injury, especially …..workplace hazards, ….and lack of child supervision “. The importance of this is that OSH is mainstreamed into the general child accident prevention agenda.

On June 17th accidents and youth employment were discussed at the Eurosafe Annual Conference in Budapest. Regarding education, participants at this session heard that learning objectives on risk /OSH education need to be embedded throughout the core curriculum subjects, and included at university level, and employers must provide adequate induction and other health and safety training for all levels of the workforce, from boardroom to shop floor. The importance of active learning methods linked to real risk management was emphasised.  In schools it is preferable to combine occupational health and safety for staff and pupils so that there is a ‘whole school’ approach.  It was emphasised that the role of the supervisor is crucial to the safety of young people in the workplace.  These supervisors, although often very competent at supervising a job, need specific training in occupational health and safety and also in how to supervise a young person.  It was suggested that more involvement of the insurance sector would help when promoting standards where young people were involved. It was also important to target businesses to promote risk education.  It was pointed out that the Netherlands has a system of approval for employers of apprentices, which could provide a model for other countries. And finally, “joined up” working between policy areas is crucial.

In recognition of the pressing need to address young people’s situation, EU-OSHA teamed up with three other EU agencies to collaborate with the European Parliament in holding a half-day seminar 'Working together for youth employment – From education to the workplace: a global challenge' on 30 June at the EP in Brussels. EU-OSHA made sure that decent work was part of the debate. 

 The importance of sharing good practices was highlighted both the Eurosafe conference and the seminar in the European Parliament. EU-OSHA continues to contribute actively to this. For example, now on the EU-OSHA website there are a series of case examples on young workers and health promotion, which form part of a wider project on sharing experiences of good practice in workplace health promotion.

The ‘Safe Start’ campaign started in 2006 lives on and spreads worldwide. For example it has been used by projects in Azerbaijan, and South Korean visitors took the EU-OSHA report on OSH in the school curriculum home and translated it. 

At the XIX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in September EU-OSHA is invited to make a presentation on young workers in a technical session on demographic change and takes part in a roundtable of the symposium ‘from school to the workplace’. 

Finally, EU-OSH is supporting a project to develop teaching resources for the use of the DVDs of the NAPO cartoon character in schools. Piloting of these draft resources to support risk education has taken place in four member states and you can already access the draft resource pack from the NAPO website.

Watch the other episodes of Napo in safe start