When a young nurse, licensed practical nurse, respiratory therapist or perfusionist enters the labour market, she comes with baggage, knowledge, know-how and life skills which are her own. What she knows about the professional environment, which will now be hers, may be limited or seem to her to be a little abstract. This is perfectly normal! All young healthcare professionals must be integrated, oriented and become familiar with their new environment. She has to learn what her rights and obligations are, as well as those of her employer. She has to identify the resources which can best inform her and support her. This step is important in many matters, particularly that of occupational health and safety.
For their professional life to get off on the right foot, the young professionals must be informed and be interested in their health and safety. They must therefore know that under an Act respecting occupational health and safety (OHS Act) in force in Québec, their employer is obliged to take the necessary measures to protect their health and ensure their safety and their physical integrity. This obligation can be expressed in different ways, going from a safe work environment and organization of work to making available the means and equipment for adequate protection, to the information and the training required in order to allow the worker to safely accomplish the work given to her (OHS Act, Sec. 51). At the same time, young workers also have obligations to respect under this Act, in particular that of taking the necessary measures to protect their health, safety and their physical integrity, or still to participate in the identification and elimination of the risks of work accidents or occupational diseases in their workplaces (OHS Act, Sec. 49).
Whatever the setting in which she begins her career, it is important that the healthcare professional is well informed and aware of what concerns her health and her safety. It is moreover with this objective that the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CSST) proposes, on its website, a section called Jeunes au travail (young people at work) where can be found the relevant documentation for all the workers, including a liste de questions à se poser dès le premier jour de travail (list of questions to be asked as of the first day of work) :
- What are the risks associated with this job?
- Do I have to follow some training to do my work in complete safety?
- What are the safety rules and instructions?
- What are the safe work methods
- Do I need to wear equipment (helmet, glasses, etc.) or use material (trolley, cart, etc.) to protect myself?
- What do I need to do in the event of a work accident?
- What are the emergency measures (fire, chemical spills, etc.) to be applied?
- Who do I need to speak to if I have questions about occupational health and safety?
However, despite all her good will and her vigilance, a young healthcare professional may be the victim of a work accident. Among the things that she must be aware of is an important provision in an Act respecting industrial accidents and occupational diseases (AIAOD) which stipulates that “No employer may dismiss, suspend or transfer a worker or practice discrimination or take reprisals against him, or impose any other sanction upon him because he has suffered an employment injury or exercised his rights under this Act (AIAOD, Sec. 32, par. 1). It will also be essential that she inform her local union team forthwith who will know how to help, inform and accompany her during the course of her case.
Besides the local union team, her more experienced colleagues can be valuable sources of information on occupational health and safety. With their detailed knowledge of the setting, practices and especially the dangers specific to them, they are able to give sound advice on OHS matters. Do not hesitate to consult them!
Being aware of and equipped to deal with the importance of occupational health and safety is vital during a professional life, but it is a key issue when entering the labour market. It is even one of the essential conditions to respect if one wants to practise the profession for several years!
Do you know ?
The health and safety risks are generally grouped into five major categories, according to their nature: biologic, chemical, ergonomic, physical and psychosocial. To learn more, the web site of the Association paritaire pour la santé et la sécurité du travail du secteur des affaires sociales (ASSTSAS) proposes some interesting dossiers thématiques. (thematic files)
The CSST has a plan d’action jeunesse (youth action plan) which includes three parts: education, training and integration to work.
The FIQ proposes the Votre dossier SST en 10 étapes (Your OHS file in 10 steps) guide which, in addition to being a crucial tool for simplifying the understanding of how an OHS case progresses, also provides much more essential information and valuable advice. A tool useful for all, in particular young professionals starting their professional life.