Canadian Rental Service

CRA President’s Message: Summer student safety

By Tim Ranson   

Canadian Rental Association

Spring is officially here, and we are once again considering adding high school students to the payroll for casual summer work. Many rental operators have developed the next generation of rental professionals by introducing them to the business as a summer student. This practice has been successfully implemented with many businesses in previous years.

Pre-planning is necessary to have success with hiring any new staff. I recommend you establish a rigorous and consistent orientation. This not only provides structure, but ensures all workers learn the same important safety and operation rules. By following pre-set onboarding steps, such as filling out hiring paperwork and reviewing safety information, we also ensure introductions are completed before the worker is permitted into the yard or shop environment.

In our branches, we use the first two days as an opportunity to ease new employees into the culture of the business and provide them with the safety training essential to daily activities such as movement of equipment and hand signals. We issue Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) necessary in our shop, yards and on customer sites. We also use these first few days to introduce the new employee to all the staff, assign a specific team member as a mentor and finally, to provide instruction on the scope of work they will be assigned in the next few weeks.

Often the young worker will have a restricted driver’s license. I would urge you to check with your insurance company prior to permitting this worker to operate your company vehicles. Also, remember to restrict them from operating any other mobile equipment for safety and insurance purposes.

New hires must be assigned to a mentor within the branch. This mentor needs to be a senior worker with competence in the scope of work required by the young worker. The mentor must be patient and able to instruct the new worker in all aspects of the yard and the shop. Safety and well-being of all staff is the most important priority for both the mentor and the new worker. The mentor and the student should be in constant communication. I suggest a pre-job discussion of the scope of work with periodic breaks to review, providing constant supervisor access while the work is in progress. In our business, the student is not to be left unsupervised when working.


It is critically important to explain all hazardous activities and components, and to develop in your staff awareness of being able to stop work if they are unsure of how to proceed safely or if dangerous conditions exist. This is an occupational health and safety requirement in all jurisdictions in Canada, often referred to as “the right to refuse dangerous work.” Your discussion with new staff provides an opportunity to re-think a task to reduce or to remove the hazards before resuming the task.  

The mentor is responsible to ensure the student worker is involved in your job hazard analysis process and is given direction and supervision on the assigned tasks for each day.  

While the student is in the employment of the rental company, they are expected to follow all rules and policies. Demonstrating the rules by explaining the reasons why, and leading by example will help ensure the student worker clearly understands this responsibility. 

Tim Ranson is Environment, Health and Safety manager at Finning (Canada) / The Cat Rental Store in Edmonton, Alta. He has worked in the rental industry for more than 20 years. Tim sat on the ARA Trade Show Committee and the ARA Risk Management Committee and helped start its Professional Driver Improvement Program. He was also a speaker/panelist over the past three years at the ARA Rental Show learning sessions.

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