Set new and young workers up for success

Learn about the risk factors for new and young workers and make a plan to support them.

Shape

Overview

How this helps your business

Inexperienced workers, particularly new and young workers may lack experience, knowledge and skills to perform their job and may not be aware of their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. Fearful of speaking up, they can be asked to perform tasks that may put them in danger, both mentally and physically

By fostering a culture that supports the mental health, safety and wellbeing of your new and young workers, you will help them feel settled, happy and safe. This can result in positive attitudes and behaviours leading to loyal, valuable, productive employees.

Key stats and facts


2,472  

Young workers injured in the workplace (2018/2019).

2018-2019 Claims Data, WorkSafe Victoria, 2019


3x  

New workers are three times more likely to be injured at work in the first month than those who had been in the job for over a year.

At Work, Issue 97, Summer 2019: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, 2019


42%  

of young workers were exposed to at least one psychosocial job stressor.

Milner, A., et al., Entry into work and changes in mental health among young workers, 2016

Step 1

Learn more on this topic

Young workers are aged 15-24 years old, and are often part-time and casual workers or apprentice/ trainees. New workers can be of any age and can be exposed to similar risk factors as young workers.

Because of their lack of experience, young workers are one of the most vulnerable groups in the workforce. WorkSafe conducted a real-life social experience, together with leading psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg to uncover the extent of the problem. You can view the full details of the experiment including interviews on the below card.

The experiment shows why it is important to consider the risk factors associated with employing new or young workers. These can include:

  • low confidence or fear of speaking up
  • increased risk of bullying
  • lack of workplace experience
  • peer based issues e.g. such as school, University or family concerns
  • poor financial literacy
  • job insecurity
  • technology impacts
  • fatigue e.g. gaming, study commitments, social activities
  • eagerness to please employers
  • languages other than English

Step 2

Understand your obligations

Under Victoria's health and safety laws you must provide and maintain a working environment for your employees that is safe and free of risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. Employees may include contractors and agency staff such as labour hire.

By law, you must also provide appropriate training and supervision of all employees to ensure their work is done safely and their health is not put at risk. This includes explaining why tasks are done in a certain way, new and young workers can often replicate tasks without understanding the why. As an employer, you are responsible for sharing and talking about health and safety information with your new and young workers. Discussion and consultation is important! Watch the video and information below on Young workers; Safety basics to understand why young workers need extra support especially in relation to workplace safety.

New and young workers themselves also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety – and that of their workmates – and to cooperate with your efforts to make the workplace safe.

By having a strong induction policy in your workplace, your workplace can establish a strong safety culture and support network for new and young workers. In step 5 you will find an example induction policy.

For more information and tools on appropriate supervision and employer's guide to employing young workers, refer to the resource cards below.

Step 3

Talk with your staff

Having regular and positive conversations with your employees can help identify issues in the workplace, and build a strong commitment to supporting mental health, safety and wellbeing.

How you consult with your new and young workers is critical to ensure the information is being received and retained. Young workers in particular often retain and react to new information differently to those in other age groups in the workplace.

Consider the points below on the best way to consult in your workplace:

Language- Speak to them as you would to anyone else, be mindful of what you say and how you speak. This is your opportunity to build trust and respect with your new and young workers. If English is not their first language, consider how you can translate essential information. Click on the WorkSafe link below to access safety information translated in 15 languages.

Body language- Consider your body language when speaking, keep it open and non-threatening. For example, having your arms folded and standing in their personal space can be intimidating. Try to be on the same level, calm and be open to discussion.

Communication methods- Young workers in particular are incredibly tech savvy and are visual learners. Think about using imagery and engaging platforms such as social media, YouTube or online resources to increase the effectiveness of your communication. Ask for their feedback and ideas.

Watch the WorkSafe consultation video below to further understand employers responsibilities, and use the consultation guide in the resource provided to help step you through the process, the when, who , what and ways to consult.

Step 4

Make a plan

Now that you have a greater understanding of the risks associated with new and young workers, it's time to make a plan on how to best support their needs.

For some ideas read the strategies listed below.

Review your induction and/or on-boarding process

Review your induction policy so that it is clear and provides support. If not in place already, think about an on-boarding process which goes above and beyond a simple induction. This can be planned for new workers to ensure they learn the attitudes, behaviours, skills, and culture to effectively contribute to the workplace over a certain time period. For further help, use WorkSafe's sample checklist for site inductions for new workers below.

Health and safety training

Tailor your training to ensure it includes on the job training, using techniques such as 'Tell, show, do'. Consider cultural, literacy and learning needs. New and young workers may retain information differently as we learnt above.

Regular check-ins

Regularly check in on your new and young workers to ensure they are comfortable and competent with new procedures or equipment. Only ask them to do the work if they fully understand the task. Consider their mental health and wellbeing, not just the physical nature of the job. This could include asking how they are coping with job demands, work design and understanding of their role.

Financial literacy

Often young workers are entering the workplace for the first time, meaning they enter the role with little work experience and often little experience with earning an income. Providing simple resources that can assist them to manage their finances can benefit both the workplace and the young workers, as research shows that financial pressures can contribute to poor mental health outcomes. Share the ASIC resource below with your new and young workers.

Policies

Make sure work, health, safety and wellbeing policies and procedures are in place and they are agreed, understood and enforced by all employees. Policies such as prevention of bullying and social media use are particularly relevant for younger employees. More information around developing or reviewing policies can be found in your Toolkit.

Buddy system

A buddy or mentor system can help to reinforce important aspects of the job and workplace, answer questions and pass on skills, knowledge and experience. A buddy doesn't replace the daily responsibility of the supervisor but is an extra layer of support for your new and young workers.

Note: It is important to be selective on who you choose as a buddy or mentor as bad habits or non-safe work practices can be passed down. This can contribute to an increased risk of injury and negatively impact workplace culture.

Read the tip card below from WorkSafe Victoria for further information on how to better support your young workers.

Step 5

Start implementing

Now that you have read through the strategies in Step 4, choose at least 2 that you can start implementing into your workplace. Select strategies that you think are most relevant to your workplace and will provide the greatest support to your new and young workers.

In the cards below you will see examples of Induction and Buddy Programs. Review these resources to help guide you in your implementation.

Remember to consider the risk factors we discussed in Step 1. Watch the video below, Bluehats suicide prevention initiative by Incolink. This program was developed in partnership with the construction industry in response to the alarming rates of suicide. The initiative helps support the mental health of workers who may be feeling down or just need to talk to someone.

Step 6

Review and keep improving

Once you have chosen your strategies, you should review their progress at regular intervals to ensure the project or initiatives are on track making notes on where you could improve. Gathering feedback from involved employees is a crucial part of ongoing improvement and project success.

It is important to focus on continuously improving the way your workplace uses work design to help create a mentally healthy workplace.

A change in workplace demographics especially an increase in the number of young or new workers can result in generational differences in the workplace. So it is important to review training and supervision arrangements, policies, procedures and strategies regularly to ensure they are working well and as intended.

Use the following resource from Guarding Minds at Work to help evaluate your strategies. Review WorkSafe's consultation guide for more information on when consultation is required, this resource can be downloaded from Step 3 above.

More resources

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Disclaimer: The WorkWell Toolkit provides general information only. Please consider your specific circumstances, needs and seek appropriate professional advice.