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

Factors that can increase young workers' risk

Young workers aren't all the same – they come from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.

Like all employees, young workers are at risk of workplace injury or illness if their employer doesn’t do things like ensuring that equipment and systems of work are safe. But there are some additional factors that can increase young workers' risk of injury at work.

Research shows that young workers are:

  • less likely to receive occupational health and safety (OHS) training and supervision
  • less likely to be aware of their OHS rights and responsibilities
  • often not supported to speak up about OHS matters
  • more likely to be employed in high-risk industries
  • often new to a job – workers in their first month are four to six times more likely to experience a work-related injury or illness than those who have been on the job more than a year
  • more likely to be employed in insecure work such as casual, part-time, labour hire, unpaid internships, and freelance or gig 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 is reasonably practicable. As part of this, employers have a range of responsibilities, including the following which are essential to reducing the risk of injury for young workers:

  • providing employees with the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to do their job safely
  • providing and maintaining safe machinery and equipment and systems of work, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • maintaining the workplace so it is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable

For the purposes of the duties above, 'employees' includes contractors, sub-contractors, employees of a contractor and labour hire employees. Employees are those with a contract of employment or training. Volunteers are not employees, even if they receive out of pocket expenses.

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

Employers must provide information to their employees, in appropriate languages, about health and safety at the workplace, including the names of persons to whom an employee may make an enquiry or complaint about health and safety.

Young workers

Like all employees, young workers’ legal responsibilities include:

  • taking reasonable care for your own health and safety in the workplace, and for the health and safety of others who may be affected by what you do or don't do
  • co-operating with your employer about any action they take to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 or Occupational health and Safety Regulations 2017
  • not intentionally or recklessly interfering with or misusing anything provided at the workplace to support health, safety and welfare

WorkSafe's role

WorkSafe's role includes:

  • assisting Victorian employers and employees to achieve a healthy and safe working environment
  • ensuring people follow occupational health and safety 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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