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Social media aids young worker safety efforts

By Mari-Len De Guzman

VANCOUVER — Organizations are increasingly recognizing the need to adopt new and innovative ways to communicate safety messages effectively with young workers, according to health and safety experts.

“We have to realize that if we want to reach young workers with our safety message, we have to go to places where young people live — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram — this is where they get their information,” said Robin Schooley, industrial specialist for the Young and New Worker program of WorkSafeBC.

Schooley led a panel of other health and safety experts from various organizations in a discussion on using new technologies to reach young workers at the Western Conference on Safety this week.

Schooley said WorkSafeBC has recognized the need to adapt new technologies and social media tools to help the workers’ compensation boards campaign to increase safety awareness among young workers.

“One million Canadian youth between 13 and 17 (years old) are on Facebook. If they’re not already working, they are the next generation of workers,” Schooley pointed out.

Over the last few years, WorkSafeBC has been launching social networking and other web pages to capture the younger audience. To date, the agency has Facebook and Twitter accounts that get updated constantly with health and safety bulletins and updates.

Schooley said her organization is also moving towards blogging and developing smart phone applications to deliver its messages to the younger demographic.

Across Canada, organizations are increasingly recognizing the need to start creating a more safety aware workforce through the school system. The WorkSafeBC Speakers Network is doing just that.

“Through the Speakers Network, we are going to school and talking to kids to create (safety) attitudes among young workers — as opposed to changing the attitudes of veteran workers,” said Laurie Lowes, manager for health and safety at London Drugs, based in Richmond, B.C., and among those involved with WorkSafeBC’s Speakers Network.

Also speaking at the conference panel, Lowes said his company, London Drugs recognizes the importance of a young workers’ safety program in any organization that employs young workers.

He said London Drugs implements a youth mentorship program for its young workers. The safety of young workers is impressed upon the workers and their family from the day they start on the job.

Newly hired young workers are sent home with a letter from the company addressed to their parents letting them know about the work that their child will be involved with, as well as the company’s safety programs and training.

“We encourage parents to talk to their child about work,” said Lowes.

In addition to using social media networks to reach the younger population, WorkSafeBC has also launched a student safety video contest for grades 8 to 12. Students were encouraged to submit self-produced videos with the theme: It's Your Job: What do you need to make it fair and safe?

You can watch and vote on the video entries from the WorkSafeBC website.

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