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Editorial: a Vision Zero for workplace accidents

| By Björn Lindahl, Acting Editor

Lets get a Vision Zero for workplace accidents! That’s the conclusion in the report ‘Young workers’ working environment in the Nordic countries’, which forms the basis for this month’s theme.

Vision Zero is a Swedish expression used in traffic accidents prevention. The aim is  a future where no one will be killed or seriously injured.  

The report’s main author Pete Kines points to both negative and positive sides to being young in a workplace: the youngest workers run a greater risk of being involved in accidents, but because of their young age their injuries are often less serious than for older workers.

The report points out that there is no single problem or solution which will prevent all injuries. It is not enough just to focus on the youths, you must also look at safety culture, training and a host of other factors.

The youths are about to enter working life, but the borders between work, placements and studies are often vague. Part-time work is becoming more and more common, for instance within the retail sector. As more and more shops stay open at weekends and in the evening, mainly young women man the tills. A part-time worker who only works a few hours a week rarely gets the same support as a full-time employee.

The Nordic Labour Journal looks at three very different jobs for young people – we have met a couple of Finnish youths working in a call centre; a first job for many young people. Its’ an occupation with a bad reputation when it comes to the working environment, but here too much has been changing for the better.

We have followed Icelandic medical students on their way into a high status occupation, but who face a working environment at Iceland’s main University Hospital, Landspítalinn in Reykjavik, which is so stressful that more than 90 percent of the students say they would not consider working there when they graduate. They don’t even have a changing room and must change in a corridor – a symbol of how young workers are often treated.

How far does our concern for young workers stretch? Do the thousands of au pairs arriving to Norway and Denmark from the Philippines get a proper working environment too? Some of the au pairs experience forced labour, illustrated by an ongoing court case in Norway. A married couple stand charged of forcing two au pairs to work 96 hours a week.

The aim for working life policies should be that nobody should have to put their health  at risk at work. But for those who do suffer an injury it is of course important that the health service works. The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Minister, Dagfinn Høybråten, wants to extend Nordic cooperation within the health sector.

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