It doesn't matter if your worker is employed on a part-time, full-time or casual basis, or a work experience or job placement, they have the right to a safe and healthy workplace.
Employers need to pay specific attention to the needs of young workers in their workplace. Young workers must be properly trained and supervised, and provided with sufficient information and instruction to ensure they can work safely.
Why young workers are at higher risk of being injured
- are usually still developing physically and mentally - there can be tasks that will be beyond their current capabilities
- may lack the experience, knowledge and skills to understand the risks involved in the tasks they are doing, or take appropriate steps to protect themselves from injury
- may not be aware of their rights and responsibilities in terms of workplace health and safety
- may not ask questions or speak out if there is a problem for fear of looking incapable or losing their job
Employers' legal duties
Your legal duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 include:
- providing your employees with a safe working environment without risks to health (so far as is reasonably practicable)
- providing your employees with the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision so they can perform their work safely
Employees may include contractors and labour hire employees.
For more information about your duties:
What may fulfill these duties for an older or more experienced employee may not be adequate for a young employee. For example, a younger worker may not speak up if they don’t understand a task or you may assume they know more than they do.
Young workers' age and experience need to be considered as a risk factor when identifying hazards and risks in your workplace.
How employers can support young workers
- Provide training
Make sure young workers get a proper induction. Show employees how to carry out their job safely and how to recognise and report hazards. Ensure they can demonstrate competency before starting work and each new task.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)
Provide employees necessary equipment and show them how to wear/use any protective gear. Ensure that young workers understand why the PPE is necessary, for example, explaining what type of injuries it can prevent, as they may not recognise the risks that are being addressed.
Introduce them to their immediate supervisor, health and safety representative (HSR) and workmates. Ensure that young workers are closely and competently supervised. Consider pairing them with a buddy who is experienced to help demonstrate tasks and answer questions when they start a new job.
As an employer, you are responsible for sharing health and safety information with all employees. Include young workers in consultation about health and safety matters, such as workplace hazards and control measures, and encourage them to actively participate in the consultation process.
- Create a health and safety culture
Good leadership can help promote health and safety culture. When employees know that health and safety is important to managers, they are more likely to be motivated to follow safety procedures and raise safety issues. Ensure that young workers know how to report unsafe conditions or hazards in the workplace, and that they feel comfortable doing so.
Young workers can be injured in a matter of seconds, so be sure they have enough support.