Keeping children safe in the workplace

There are many reasons why a child might be at a workplace. This guidance can help employers, self-employed people and people with management and control of a workplace understand how to keep children safe in your workplace. It also explains the health and safety responsibilities relating to children in workplaces.


Meaning of child and children

In this guidance a 'child' or 'children' means a person, or people, under the age of 15 years old. However, much of the information will also be useful if you employ young people over the age of 15 years.

Children may be working, visiting or present at a workplace

All people working, visiting or present at a workplace are protected by health and safety laws. This includes children. Children may be at a workplace because they:

  • are an employee
  • are a volunteer
  • live on a farm or other place where business is conducted
  • are visiting with an employee or employer
  • ride in a vehicle being used for work
  • are a student in a school, a patient in a hospital or a customer in a shop
  • enter the work area of someone who works from home
  • enter a workplace without permission. For example, to play on a construction site or in a carpark or storage area after employees have left

Consider if there is any chance that a child will be in your workplace, for any reason. If there is a chance of a child attending your workplace, you need to consider this when identifying hazards and controlling risks.

If you employ anyone under 15 years old, you also need to understand and comply with Victoria's child employment laws. For more information visit Wage Inspectorate Victoria.

People who work with children may also require a Working with Children Check.

Why children are different

Most workplaces and jobs are designed for adults. Adults and children have different physical and mental capacities, skills, training and experience. Child employees are unlikely to be able to do the same work as adults in the same way. This means the risk management processes you use to safeguard adult employees may not work to protect children.

Special risk factors for children

You need to consider the age of any children in the workplace when identifying hazards and controlling risks. For child employees you also need to consider their sex, physical and emotional development and maturity. It is important to be aware that some hazards will pose a higher risk to children than adults.

Keep in mind that children:

  • Do not have experience, knowledge or judgment about workplace hazards and safe work practices.
  • Develop physically and mentally at different rates. Two children of the same age may have different capacities for work.
  • Are unlikely to know if they are being exposed to health and safety risks and may find it hard to speak up, even if they do.
  • May be energetic and enthusiastic, but shy about asking questions or making demands of adults.
  • May do work they are not prepared for, or capable of doing safely, because they are used to being told what to do by adults.
  • Are often keen to please, so they might try to imitate what they see adults doing.
  • May play near machinery or chemicals etc. without realising the risks involved.
  • Can be inquisitive and adventurous. Their natural curiosity may lead them into dangerous situations in workplaces.
  • Do not have the experience and maturity to respond appropriately in unexpected, dangerous or stressful situations. For example, when customers become aggressive or there is the threat of violence.
  • May be vulnerable to pranks and teasing by adult workers taking advantage of their inexperience and innocence.
  • May be vulnerable to bullying, harassment and racism.
  • Are still growing and will be comparatively weaker and have less stamina than adults.

Victoria's child employment laws

These laws set out the type of work children can do.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria website

Managing the health and safety of children in the workplace

Workplaces must be safe for everyone. If you know there will be children in your workplace you need to pay special attention to their health and safety. You must consult with your employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) about how to manage the health and safety of children in your workplace.

A safe and healthy workplace requires an organised approach to finding and controlling hazards and risks. This approach is known as the risk management process.

The risk management process is a continuous cycle. It begins with consultation between employers and their employees. The process then follows a series of steps. The steps are:

  1. Identify hazards.
  2. Assess the risks those hazards create.
  3. Control risks. Do this by eliminating the risk. If it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate risks, reduce them so far as is reasonably practicable.
  4. Review and revise risk control methods.

Example risk controls for child employees

  • Follow the Child Safe Standards when employing children.
  • Make sure children are prevented from lifting heavy items.
  • Identify any areas of the workplace that child employees should not enter. Make sure all employees know about these areas.
  • Make sure any equipment being used by child employees is appropriate for their age, height and strength.
  • Make sure any PPE that child employees need to use or wear is appropriate for their age, height and strength.
  • Identify any equipment that child employees should not be using. Make sure all employees know about this.
  • Make sure employees can enter and leave the workplace safely.
  • Have a quiet space where employees can take their breaks.
  • Use signage or posters to clearly communicate to clients and customers that any form of aggression or violence towards employees will not be tolerated.
  • Develop a policy that explains how child employees will be inducted, trained and supervised. The policy should be developed in consultation with employees and any HSRs. You should provide the policy to child employees as well as their parents or guardians.
  • Make sure adult employees know they have a responsibility to take care for everyone's health and safety, including child employees. Provide adult employees with information about the special risk factors for children in the workplace.
  • Make sure child employees have a direct supervisor who is at least 18 years old and has appropriate skills, experience and an up-to-date Victorian Working with Children Check.
  • Make sure direct supervisors are always visible to child employees so they can assist them when needed.
  • When children begin work, you should:
    • talk to them about health and safety
    • explain that health and safety includes both physical and mental health
    • introduce them to their direct supervisor, other employees and any HSRs
    • explain what the supervisor and HSR roles are
    • give them a full induction on the safety systems including first aid, emergency procedures, and incident reporting
    • regularly check to ensure that the children remember this information
    • show them how to work safely and regularly check to make sure they are
    • regularly check that the children still recognise hazards and risks and use the safe work practices they were shown
    • regularly inspect and maintain equipment that children may need to use to ensure it is safe
    • ensure that all employees have access to information about health and safety requirements

Example risk controls for children visiting or present at the workplace

  • Ensure children are appropriately supervised in the workplace.
  • Ensure hazardous areas are secure so children cannot access them.
  • Create a safe play area if children regularly attend the workplace.
  • Develop a policy on children in the workplace. The policy should cover:
    • when it is appropriate for children to be in the workplace
    • supervision requirements
    • which areas of the workplace children can be in

Children in workplaces case studies

Health and safety responsibilities


If you are an employer, you have a responsibility to keep employees and others safe and healthy at work.

This means, as an employer you must:

  • provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to health
  • keep the working environment safe and without risks to health
  • do both of these things so far as is reasonably practicable

Health includes both physical and mental health.

A safe working environment requires you to, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain safe systems of work, provide safe equipment and keep it in safe condition
  • make sure equipment and substances are used, handled, stored and transported safely
  • keep workplaces in a safe condition and free of risks to people's health
  • provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees

You must also provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision they need to work safely.

As an employer you also have a duty to other people your work affects. You must make sure your work does not put people's health and safety at risk. You have to do everything reasonably practicable to ensure this does not happen.

People who may be affected by work activities include:

  • visitors to your workplace
  • clients or customers
  • members of the public

Self-employed people

If you are self-employed you must ensure your business or work does not expose people to risks to their health or safety. You, as a self-employed person, must do this so far as is reasonably practicable.

For example, if it is likely children may be able to enter your workplace during or after working hours, you should ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that your workplace is made secure.

People who manage or control workplaces

If you are a person with any management or control over a workplace, you must ensure:

  • the workplace is safe and without risks to health, this includes both physical and mental health
  • the means of entering and leaving the workplace are safe and without risks to health

You must do this so far as reasonably practicable.

Your responsibilities as a person with management or control of a workplace include:

  • the building, for example, structural soundness and protection of occupants from the weather
  • its services, for example, lighting and ventilation, and fittings such as doors, windows and shelves

These duties apply only in relation to matters you manage or control.


Employees must take reasonable care for their own health and safety. They must also take reasonable care for the health and safety of people their work may affect. Health includes both physical and mental health.

Employees should not:

  • engage in behaviour that could harm people
  • take short-cuts that could reduce the level of safety

Employees must cooperate with their employer’s efforts to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. They can do this by:

  • following the workplace safety policies and procedures
  • attending health and safety training and following the instructions and advice provided
  • safely using equipment supplied by the employer

Employees must not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything the employer has provided at work in the interests of workplace health, safety or welfare.

Employees can help prevent risks to workplace health and safety by notifying the employer of any hazards.

Further information