Safety on the job must come first, students told

By  Shona Assang, The Catholic Register
  • March 12, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - The one thing a high school student wants is a part-time job and many will work just about anywhere to earn a little extra money. But students need to put a little thought into where they work, for their own good.

Rob Ellis brought this to light when he spoke recently to Grade 12 students at Francis Libermann Catholic High School. That’s because in 1999, his son David went to work in a bakery. He never returned from his second day on the job, losing his life while cleaning a large mixer. David had not received proper on-the-job training.

Since then, Ellis has been travelling across Canada and the United States talking to students about the right to refuse unsafe work. 

“When going on interviews, and the employer asks you if you have any questions for them, ask them. You should not be quiet about it,” said Ellis.

“We see you not only as students, but future leaders,” he said.

Even though he has talked to many large groups of students for a number of years, he still feels challenged and baffled by the fact that teenagers know they can say no to unsafe work, but do the work anyway.

Ellis provided some numbing statistics: 40,000 people between the ages of 15-24 in Ontario alone get injured on the job annually. And 100,000 young people are hurt at work nationwide. Each week five young workers become disabled.

Ellis said that the voices of the teens who say to him “enough is enough” is the reason why his presentation, and the video he uses called Work Well, Live Well, were created.

People in the video said that when an injury occurs, you lose your independence and become depressed. One youth who survived a workplace accident tells the audience, “Don’t let your pain take control of you, you have to be in control. When you do, you have a sense of self-empowerment.”

Dr. Raj Rampersaud, recognized as one of the best spinal surgeons in North America, a member of the University Health Network and the Toronto Western Hospital, also spoke to the students.

He believes young workers should aim to “Be a champion today” and “Go for the Gold, for no injuries.”

“Young Canadian workers are the key, the future of Canada. Our success is your success,” Rampersaud said.

Representatives from the University Health Network, TTC, International Brotherhood of Electric Workers and Bell Mobility were also on hand to take questions from students.

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