New training standards for young workers

With no minimum age requirements and a host of dangerous industries, the Yukon has traditionally been a hazardous place for young, inexperienced workers.

With no minimum age requirements and a host of dangerous industries, the Yukon has traditionally been a hazardous place for young, inexperienced workers.

Young people are more likely to get cut, burned and bruised than their older and more experienced coworkers.

And sometimes these injuries can kill.

Last month, 20-year-old Paul Wentzell died while working underground at Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine mine.

Safety advocates are hoping specialized training will help protect workers like Wentzell in the future.

Beginning next year, new training standards will be set out in the Yukon Worker’s Compensation Health and Safety Board’s new code of practice.

The code of practice recognizes young workers are at greater risk of injury than their older, more experienced coworkers.

Because of this, employers need to pay special attention to their orientation and training.

In 2008, there were 141 workers under the age of 25 who were injured on the job.

Of those, 34 were younger than 19 and at least one was less than 15 years old.

About 12 per cent of the Yukon’s workforce is made up of these younger workers and they make up an equal percentage of all accepted-injury claims.

However, because young workers are more likely to be working part-time or seasonally, these numbers may belie the extra dangers faced by young workers in the territory.

The new code explains the minimum orientation, training, and supervisory requirements that young workers should receive.

And it provides practical requirements to help employers meet these new requirements.

The requirements are broad and don’t necessarily have to be followed to the letter, said Valerie Royle, the safety board’s president and CEO.

“But if someone wasn’t following this, we’d be asking the question, ‘Well, what are you doing that provides the same level of protection as required by the act.’”

Anyone not providing the same level of protection could be punished under the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Act.

The new code of practice is the result of a motion from the Yukon legislature asking for a study of the current situation for young workers in the territory.

During the consultation, it was difficult to get Yukoners to agree on much when it came to young workers.

One thing that could be agreed upon was that young and inexperienced workers need additional training.

And employers were asking for more specific ways to keep their workers safe.

So the new training code of practice was just the first response to the study.

“We’re trying to start where there’s a consensus,” said Royle.

“If we’d tried to make all the changes at once it would have taken at least a couple years.”

Next year, the employment standards branch and health and safety board will consider implementing minimum age requirements.

“There was no agreement on an overall minimum age,” said Royle.

“But there was agreement on minimum ages for certain industries amongst parents and employers.”

Nearly everyone agreed the minimum age for general retail, food retail and food service should be 14.

A minimum age of 17 was recommended for all workers in construction, the forest industry and manufacturing as well as those working at heights or alone.

And it was agreed that workers should be at least 18 before drilling or servicing a rig, working in sawmills or pulp mills, or working in confined spaces, such as underground mines.

Mining is actually the only industry that has any minimum-age requirements right now.

Workers must be at least 16 to work on a minesite and at least 18 to work underground or at the “face of a surface mine.”

Beyond that, there are no age requirements for workers in the Yukon.

The area where there was the most debate during the consultations was around family owned businesses.

“They’re the parent and the employer and it’s where the kids grow up,” said Royle.

“So should the government be able to regulate the age your child can work?”

A lot of people said that yes, the government should regulate because parents sometimes lose perspective when they’re the employer.

Other’s said no, parents know best and the ultimate responsibility for a child’s safety should rest with the parent.

In Ontario, a study was done that looked at young workers deaths.

It found that, in 25 per cent of the cases, the young person was killed while working for their parents or a close relative.

“So it’s in no way a guarantee of safety if you’re working with your family,” said Royle.

The new code of practice should come into effect January 1, 2010.

For more information on young worker protection, check out the Motion 542 Consultation Report at

Contact Chris Oke at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP are making an appeal for information in the case of Mary Ann Ollie, who was murdered in Ross River last year and whose case remains unsolved. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson outside the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)
When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read