A young landscaping worker was reportedly killed his very first day on the job recently in New York when he became entangled in a tree grinding machine, also known as a wood-chipper. The 23-year-old worker was pronounced dead at the scene of the horrific accident, which occurred shortly after 1 p.m. on a recent Wednesday.
The awful accident sounded eerily familiar to our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers. That’s because in December, a 19-year-old in this state was killed after falling into a wood chipper on his very first day on the job in Kings Mountain. In that case, the teen reportedly tried to kick a tree limb inside and his closed got snagged. His boss, so distressed at the accident, suffered a heart attack on site. He had reportedly been working side-by-side with experienced employees, and his boss insists he had been assigned a task that was safe for beginners.
There is new research that now shows work-related injuries are more common among novice employees.
The Toronto-based Institute for Work and Health reports employees working their first month on-the-job have three times the risk of a lost-time injury than those who have been on the job more than a year.
This is perhaps not all that shocking when you consider 2013 figures from the National Safety Council that showed one-third of non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses that resulted in time away from work involved employees who had been employed less than a year. Almost one quarter of those cases involved a month or more away from work.
Researchers for the IWH said they could only speculate as to the reasons for higher rates of young/ new worker injuries. One theory is they have a skewed risk perception. They don’t have the knowledge/ awareness of certain risks, so they underestimate the danger in certain situations. Another is that they are’t properly trained. In fact, only 1 out of 5 new workers in Canada receive safety training. Similar figures have in the past been reported in the U.S., though it varies by industry.
But it’s not just new workers who are at risk in these situations. Many workplaces are structured such that co-workers rely on one another. Failure to implement safety training for new workers puts everyone else at risk too.
Certain industries see higher rates of new worker injuries. For example, in the forestry, fishing and agriculture industries, more than 45 percent of work injuries and illnesses involve employees who have been on-the-job less than one year. In the construction industry, it’s 45 percent. This is partially due to the fact that the work is largely seasonal. Many new workers are going to start all at once in the spring. Also in these industries, workers are constantly changing job sites, and that means the location of certain risks may be constantly changing. Plus, there are a lot of contractor workers, and many will work for three month stretches at a time. It doesn’t leave a ton of time for training, at least in the eyes of the employers, but it’s something that clearly can’t be ignored without tragic consequences.
It’s worth noting that the IWH study found that newness on the job is a more definitive predictor of an on-the-job injury than youth. Said one researcher, “I’d rather be a 16-year-old on the job for a year than a 40-year-old on the job for a month.”
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
New workers, higher risk, May 22, 2016, By Sarah Trotto, Safety and Health Magazine
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