Young workers: information for employers

Good leadership helps protect young workers from illness and injury.

Young workers need more support

Young workers bring a range of benefits to workplaces, including:

  • innovation and creativity
  • new skills and optimism
  • future talent and protection against skill gaps

However, young workers are more likely to be injured because they are often new to a job and may be inexperienced. They have the highest likelihood of injury occurring within the first 6 months of starting a new job.

Young workers are a diverse group of individuals who will react and behave differently in different situations. They often look to peers for reassurance and are less likely to ask questions for fear of consequences.

Understanding the unique risks of young workers is important to helping them stay safe at work.

Female construction young worker, being supervised by an older experienced worker.

Figure 1: Young workers may require additional instruction and training because they are newer to the workforce.

Creating a culture that protects young workers

When young workers know that health and safety is important in the workplace, they are more likely to follow safety procedures, raise issues and promote a culture that keeps everyone safe. Young workers look to leaders and co-workers to better understand workplace health and safety culture.

Safety culture is a collection of values, beliefs and perceptions that employees share regarding occupational health and safety (OHS) in the workplace.

A safety culture which emphasises the importance of improving safety, mitigating risk and having open communication about hazards is important to support young workers in the workplace.

A positive safety culture creates an environment where workers are likely to feel safe, increase productivity and reduce staff turnover.

Safety culture starts with leadership that values, commits and models safe behaviours. Leaders can do this by:

  • identifying and controlling or removing hazards and potential hazards before they become a risk to physical or psychosocial health at work and finding safer ways to work
  • demonstrating a commitment to safety by complying with OHS obligations
  • prioritising the handling of safety-related issues or concerns
  • having regular conversations about OHS matters and promoting the reporting of unsafe work, risks or hazards
  • breaking down barriers to reporting, for example, fear of retribution
  • promoting safety culture through banners, posters and information with specific focuses or guides installed in areas of risks to remind staff

Keep young workers safe

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.

Learn more about your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

The following information describes specific steps you can take to meet your legal duties and keep young workers safe. This is not a comprehensive list of obligations an employer must meet, but is intended to help employers understand differences between young workers and other employees.

  1. Provide information

    All employees require a proper induction.

    Key components of a health and safety induction for young workers should include:

    • OHS introduction including how to identify and report unsafe work
    • workplace hazards and risk control measures
    • OHS policies and procedures
    • first aid and emergencies
    • tour and introductions to key personnel, including health and safety representatives (HSRs) if any

    Young workers are often inexperienced and may need more information than other employees.

  2. Provide instruction and training

    Young workers may require additional instruction and training because they are newer to the workforce. Employers should make sure young workers understand how to carry out their job or use equipment safely. Employers may also need to consider young workers' skill or experience when designing and reviewing systems of work to ensure their safety.

    Use the 'Tell me, Show me, Watch me' approach when doing task-specific instruction and training with young workers. This approach has 3 steps:

    1. Tell me - provide a clear and detailed explanation of the task to the young worker, highlight key elements and outline the documented procedure. Explain why safety procedures or steps are important to prevent injury.
    2. Show me - demonstrate the task while the young worker observes you, explain key elements and ask the young worker questions to check their understanding. Show them why safety mechanisms are important and how they work to prevent injury.
    3. Watch me - observe the young worker performing the task and provide clear and constructive feedback to support them to perform the task safely. Ask them why the safety steps are important to link back to the safety procedure.
  3. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)

    Provide young workers with the necessary equipment and show them how to wear or use PPE. Explain why PPE is necessary to the task, how it will prevent injuries and the type of injuries that may occur if not used or not used correctly. Ensure that young workers understand why PPE is important.

  4. Supervise

    Quality relationships between supervisors and their young workers can reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. Young workers often worry about losing shifts or their job if they raise health and safety issues. Modelling positive working relationships, providing constructive feedback and encouraging questions can empower young workers to speak up and support a culture of safety.

  5. Consult 

    Employers must include young workers in consultation about health and safety matters, such as workplace hazards and control measures

    Employers should encourage young workers to participate in the consultation process. For example, employers could set-up daily stand-up meetings with young workers at the start of shifts to discuss safety issues, encourage open discussion and build team rapport.

    Ensure that HSRs are included as part of the health and safety culture in the workplace.