“Young adult workers aged 18–24 years have the highest risk of accidents at work”
26th of February 2019
Exploring and Expanding the Category of ‘Young Workers’ According to Situated Ways of Doing Risk and Safety – a Case Study in the Retail Industry
Article related to the NIVA course on Safety Promotion – Research and Good Practice, 7th–9th of May 2019, Hanaholmen/Hanasaari, Espoo (Helsinki area), Finland
Mette Lykke Nielsen (a), Johnny Dyreborg (b), Pete Kines (c), Kent J. Nielsen (d), Kurt Rasmussen (e)
(a) Post. doc., MSc, Ph.D., The Danish Centre for Youth Research, Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Denmark
(b) Senior researcher, MSc Sociology, Ph.D., The National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Denmark
(c) Senior researcher, MSc Psychology, Ph.D., The National Research Centre for the Working Environment, Denmark
(d) Deputy Manager, MSc Psychology, Ph.D., Danish Ramazzini Center, Department of Occupational Medicine, Herning Regional Hospital, Denmark
(e) Chief Physician, Associate Professor, Ph.D., Danish Ramazzini Center, Department of Occupational Medicine, Herning Regional Hospital, Denmark
Young adult workers aged 18–24 years have the highest risk of accidents at work. Following the work of Bourdieu and Tannock, we demonstrate that young adult workers are a highly differentiated group. Accordingly, safety prevention among young adult workers needs to be nuanced in ways that take into consideration the different positions and conditions under which young adult workers are employed. Based on single and group interviews with 26 young adult workers from six various sized supermarkets, we categorize young adult retail workers into the following five distinct groups: ‘Skilled workers,’ ‘Apprentices,’ ‘Sabbatical year workers,’ ‘Student workers,’ and ‘School dropouts.’ We argue that exposure to accidental risk is not equally distributed among them and offer an insight into the narratives of young adult workers on the subject of risk situations at work. The categorizations are explored and expanded according to the situated ways of ‘doing’ risk and safety in the working practices of the adult workers. We suggest that the understanding of ‘young’ as an age-related biological category might explain why approaches to prevent accidents among young employees first and foremost include individual factors like advice, information, and supervision and to a lesser degree the structural and cultural environment wherein they are embedded. We conclude that age cannot stand alone as the only factor in safety prevention directed at workers aged 18–24 years; if we do so, there is a risk of overemphasizing age-related individual characteristics such as awareness and cognitive limitations before structural, relational, and hierarchical dimensions at the workplace.
Key Words: age, doing safety, categories of youth workers, positioning, safety promotion, supermarkets, youth, qualitative study
Download the whole article HERE.