BuildForce Canada estimates that around 21% of the labour force (over 132,000 workers) will retire between the years of 2018 and 2027, necessitating replacements in the near future. A new influx of younger workers is said to meet the new demand, with over 125,000 workers aged 30 and younger now entering the construction industry.
However, there are safety concerns about the sudden influx of younger workers, who are statistically more likely to experience deaths or injuries on construction sites due to their lack of experience in health and safety practices when compared to their older and more experienced counterparts.
Safety and construction associations are aware of this risk, with Tammy Oliver, Senior Director of the BC Construction Safety Alliance, saying that the BCCSA is offering health and safety-related courses to young people who wish (or need) to receive formal safety qualifications for industries such as roadbuilding and construction. The alliance also offers hazard awareness training programs too.
WorkSafeBC is also said to offer health and safety programs to new and emerging workers, with the Young Worker Speaker program being created to assist parent advisory councils and secondary schools that have concerns about young workers’ safety. Spokeswoman Erica Simpson claims that the program supplies speakers with unique experience and skills, allowing them to educate other young people and encourage them to take safety procedures seriously.
Terry Bogyo, a BC consultant, says that young construction worker deaths and injuries are a many-sided issue.
“The loss of limbs, function, and life of anyone is serious, but, in the case of young workers, the potential years of life lost or the disability-adjusted years of life imposed are that much greater.”
Discussing how some younger workers may ignore safety rules in order to impress their new bosses, Bogyo goes on to say “we need a top-down change in what is important on a work site… Supervisors need to make it clear all the time that safety trumps production.”
Bogyo expresses the opinion that the frequent use of safety messages in construction workplace communication will eventually lead to an increase in site safety, as well as a drop in procedure violations.
Training is also a big concern for young construction worker safety, with other countries, such as Australia, being quoted as having superior training systems to Canada, at least when it comes to building sites. Bogyo goes on to explain how the Australian construction training system is designed to ensure that everyone uses the same vocabulary and has the same basic training, ensuring consistency and straightforward communication between workers.
Jeff Lyth, a Vancouver health and safety consultant, says that employers and their workers must think more deeply about hazards and the associated risks if they wish to see a drop in accidents. Many employers simply focus on rule and regulation changes, but Lyth argues that this is not enough to protect construction workers from deaths and injuries in their workplace.
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