Improving the safety and health of young workers

By James Marzocca | April 26, 2018

It goes without saying that the safety of our people, our clients, and our partners is paramount. We work in a business that is fraught with safety risks and hazards, especially on our project sites.

On April 28, organizations around the world will recognize, each in their own way, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work (SafeDay). It serves as a welcome reminder that every person in an organization contributes to the safety culture at work by their actions—by complying with stipulated processes that mitigate the many inherent risks present in the workplace, and by speaking up when they see something that puts safety at risk. Events like SafeDay remind us to never lose sight of the importance of being ever vigilant and mindful.

There is another perspective that I personally would like us to consider as we recognize this day. You may have noticed that this year, SafeDay and the World Day Against Child Labour (WDACL) have come together to support a joint campaign to improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labor. You may think these have nothing to do with our industry or workplace. Perhaps you think they are political issues—far removed from our day-to-day.

I for one think that, as important as it is to be introspective about our organizations’ safety practices, it is equally important to take a wider, outward look at processes or practices that contribute to these two issues. The International Labour Organization in a recent paper, Improving the Safety and Health of Young Workers, indicated that the safety and health risks are higher for younger workers. This group has significantly higher rates of occupational injury than adult workers. According to some statistics, the incidence of non-fatal injury at work was more than 40 percent higher among young workers between the ages of 18 and 24 than among adult workers. Statistics also indicates that of the 151.6 million children engaged in child labor globally, almost half (72.5 million) are engaged in hazardous work.

These numbers should be concerning to all of us. As managing director, project management and construction, it is my responsibility to ensure that we take the necessary steps to address worker welfare and are not (unintentionally) supporting harmful practices like these anywhere in our supply chain. A project’s success can never be at the cost of worker welfare.

The Project Delivery Group at Hatch is leading the charge, implementing formal worker welfare practices and clear guidelines to ensure the protection of workers involved in any of our projects. Hatch’s worker welfare practices encompass all stages of the supply chain, from recruitment to the implementation of a worker welfare management plan for contractors, equipment, materials and services suppliers, and joint venture partners prior to commencing work with us. Our project management team is armed with clear guidelines and checklists as part of their project tool box.

Each of us can do our part to eliminate the risks to our younger workers and to end child labor; we have a collective responsibility to do so. This year, in addition to thinking about how we can make our own work or home environments safe, let’s also think about what we can do to end this egregious and abhorrent practice. Because it is the right thing to do.