I really hope fifteen year old Andrew James died quickly.
July 25, 2008 was a cool, overcast summer morning and Andrew was acting like thousands of young people his age.
He hoped to earn a few extra dollars over the summer by working as a laborer for a local road construction company in Stony Plain, Manitoba, Canada and that day he was helping unload a truck filled with high temperature paving material.
But something went horribly wrong as Andrew monitored the situation from his position behind the truck. The roiling material released unexpectedly fast from the upturning box, instantly trapping Andrew’s feet and legs beneath a burning hot flow of asphalt.
Within seconds he was completely enveloped in a blistering mound of blacktop.
A few harrowing and desperate minutes of rescue activity later revealed that under indifferent management, fifteen precious years of loving investment can evaporate in a few heartbeats. What a terrible and needless loss…
The Business Of Hurting and Killing People
More than 500 young adults between the ages of 15 – 24 will die on the job in the United States this year and while that number is itself hard to comprehend, nearly 800,000 more in that same time frame will receive injuries serious enough to send them to hospital emergency rooms. Employees in this age group are twice as likely as others to be injured on the job.
And that’s not the worst part.
Each and every day throughout 2008, US businesses terminally dispatched 16 employees through various methods while ensuring another 134 folks bit the bullet due to work related diseases. To add insult to insanity, we injure another 11,200 employees every day in the US just to keep them on their toes. (depending on the type of injury, of course)
What Seems To Be The Problem Here?
When it comes to why young folks are injured or killed at work, there are some standard hazards that are not being addressed by the businesses hiring them:
- Yeah, What He Said – less than 24% of young workers reported that they received safety or even orientation training before starting their job. Most had not even been provided basic equipment use training and 46% of the young adults reported that they had received no training at all. (see links below)
- Hey Dude, Watch This! – studies show that young males have nearly twice the job accident rate as females and given what most everyone knows about fearless adolescents, it should come as no surprise that special attention to hazard assessments must be undertaken with these employees.
- No Speakie Until Spoken To – most young people have been told that they must listen to authority and when it doesn’t say anything, they hear that, too. The 15 to 24 year old age group especially need to be reminded to speak up about their human rights because many are uncertain if they qualify as human.
- We Saw That Old Monkey Do It – because they are so often overlooked when it comes to clear and concise directions, young people automatically emulate their older coworkers. What might provide short term high level activity without experience is really a disaster waiting to happen. Provide the direction they need.
- Young WhipperSnappers These Days – too many adults have preconceived notions about young people’s ability and willingness to take direction. Unfortunately for adolescents, many are viewed as unconcerned when often their behavior is a result of being afraid to look stupid if they ask too many questions. New employees should not have to ask. Tell them.
Companies Might Be Amoral But Shareholders Are Not
With work related injuries and deaths on the rise for young people and employees in general, all businesses need to rethink their responsibility for the welfare of what is supposedly their most important asset.
Small business owners and managers have an obligation to not only operate enterprises in a manner which allows employees to return home safely but ideally they should be in better condition than when they left.
I anxiously await the day when we are able to dramatically reduce all suffering caused by organized toil so we can invest the lives of young people like Andrew in our collective futures instead of senseless, amoral mistakes.
Then we will all be a little more human.
Thank you, friend.
PS. Follow up with how poorly we are treating our young people at work with this Business Week article and a very informative article from Readers Digest.