Pulp and Paper Canada

Young Worker Safety – Your Responsibility

May 1, 2004  By Pulp & Paper Canada

“One day in 1999 I walked into a paper mill and I never walked out. In fact, I never walked with my own two legs again. On that day, a day like any other, I was working at the paper mill in my hometown of Miramichi, New Brunswick, for the third su…

“One day in 1999 I walked into a paper mill and I never walked out. In fact, I never walked with my own two legs again. On that day, a day like any other, I was working at the paper mill in my hometown of Miramichi, New Brunswick, for the third summer earning money to finish my university degree. Work was going as normal until I crossed the floor taking a shortcut over a moving conveyor belt — a route commonly used by co-workers, supervisors and visitors alike. While crossing the belt my left foot got caught in the conveyor system. There was no emergency stop so it kept hauling my foot in further and further until a man heard me screaming and stopped the belt saving my life. That step on the conveyor belt was the last step my left foot would ever take. It was crushed beyond repair and my leg was amputated below the knee.”

– Candace Carnahan


This is the story of Candace Carnahan, a young worker who was critically injured on a summer job within our industry. As shocking as her story is, more shocking is the regularity with which this type of accident occurs. In Ontario alone, an average of 42 young workers, many of them students like Candace, are injured on the job every day, sometimes fatally. Each and every one of these injuries is preventable — but prevention requires commitment and work on the part of all workplace parties. Young workers, those between the ages of 15-24, require specialized training and orientation to protect their health and safety. That responsibility falls directly on employers.

As summer approaches, now is the time to ensure you and your organization are doing everything possible to protect the students working at your location by providing a safe and healthy working environment. This includes revisiting the general orientation program that you have for students, the job specific health and safety training that you provide, the potential hazards that students would be exposed to and finally the supervision provided to young workers.

Seem like a daunting task?

You have help. Each province offers specific resources aimed at young worker safety, resources available through organizations like the Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association (PPHSA). Another excellent resource is a national program aimed at providing the foundation for ensuring young Canadians return home at the end of each day. That resource is Passport to Safety.

Passport to Safety is a unique, not-for-profit, cross-Canada catalyst for change intended to help eliminate needless injuries and preventable deaths of young Canadians aged 24 and under. Passport to Safety supports the vision that our children enter and then return home from safe workplaces every day, which by extension are safe workplaces for people of all ages.

Young people challenge a Passport to Safety “test” based on learning outcomes developed by health and safety curriculum experts from most provincial and territorial jurisdictions across Canada. Successful participant are awarded a “transcript” that can be attached to resumes to demonstrate their basic awareness of health and safety. This basic level of awareness is the first step in a safe and healthy career path. Participants are encouraged to add more credits to other courses that help people mange risk, such as first aid, WHMIS, confined space entry and others. Passport to Safety is not intended as a stand-alone training substitution for the many programs offered internally as workplace and hazard specific training by your organization, nor is it a substitution for compliance.

As leaders in your community, the pulp and paper industry can take a key role in ensuring its workplaces are some of the safest and healthiest in the world. This is known as a best practice approach to occupational health and safety — one that goes beyond regulatory compliance and strives to make injuries and illness a thing of the past. This requires innovation, real commitment across the organization and dedicated resources. Visit Passport to Safety at www.passporttosafety.com and raise the standard for young worker safety in your operation.

Paul Andre, CRSP, is the Manager of Field Services for the Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association. He has worked in both the Forestry and Pulp and Paper sectors as an occupational health and safety professional for the past twelve years.

PPHSA is a recognized leader in occupational health and safety in the pulp and paper and related industries. Visit them at http://www.pphsa.on.ca/

Print this page


Stories continue below