Young workers: Safety basics

Protecting the health and safety of young workers is good for business.

Young workers are the future

Young workers (aged 15-24) bring new skills, energy and innovation into a workforce.

Protecting and promoting the health and safety of young workers is an investment for businesses now and into the future.

The most common industries where young workers make injury claims are:

  • construction
  • manufacturing
  • hospitality
  • retail
  • health care and social assistance

Young worker - kitchen TV commercial

Risks

Young workers come from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.

All workers are at risk of workplace injury or illness if their employer fails to ensure equipment and systems of work are safe and without risks to health. For young workers, there are additional factors that can increase the risk of illness or injury at work.

Factors that contribute to young workers’ risk of injury include:

  • being at the start of their careers or new to a job
  • lack of awareness or understanding of their occupational health and safety (OHS) rights and responsibilities
  • insufficient OHS training and supervision
  • inexperience when compared with more experienced workers
  • not feeling supported to speak up about OHS matters
  • not knowing how to report OHS issues at work

Young workers are more likely to be employed in insecure work such as casual, part-time, labour hire, unpaid internships, apprenticeships, traineeships and freelance or gig work. This can create further barriers to young workers speaking up about OHS matters and increase work-related stress compared with employees in secure work.

Health and safety legal duties

Employers

Under Victoria's health and safety laws, employers must provide and maintain a working environment for their employees that is safe and free of risks to health, so far as reasonably practicable. This includes both physical and psychological risks, such as work-related stress or customer abuse.

Responsibilities of employers include:

  • to provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to do their job safely
  • to provide and maintain safe machinery and equipment and systems of work
  • to maintain the workplace so it is safe and without risks to health
  • to provide health and safety information in appropriate languages, including the names of who to contact about health and safety.

Employers must also ensure people other than employees, such as the public, are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct, so far as reasonably practicable.

Young workers

Under Victoria's health and safety laws, all employees, including young workers, must:

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety in the workplace
  • be careful of other people's health and safety, which may be affected by what employees do or do not do
  • co-operate with their employer about any action the employer takes to comply with the requirements of Victoria's health and safety laws
  • not intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse anything provided at the workplace to keep workers safe

WorkSafe's role

WorkSafe's role includes:

  • assisting Victorian employers and employees to achieve a healthy and safe working environment
  • ensuring people follow OHS laws
  • paying compensation for lost wages, medical care and treatment for workers if they're injured at work

If you're concerned about a health, safety or compensation issue, you can talk to our advisory service.

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