Do you remember your first job? Was it bar work as a student, stacking shelves in the summer holidays or temping in a call centre? Whatever it was, you probably found it a daunting task on your first day. For many young people, the world of work is often a strange and confusing place. Inexperience and lack of trained judgement leaves them more at risk from accidents and damage to their health. In this short post, we look at the risks facing young workers and the steps you can take to protect them…
Young workers law?
Like all other workers, young people at work are protected by the Health and Safety at Work Act and subsidiary legislation, including the Management of Health and Safety at Work (MHSW) Regulations. Regulation 19 of MHSW states that: “Every employer shall ensure that young persons employed by him are protected at work from any risks to their health or safety which are a consequence of their lack of experience, or absence of awareness of existing or potential risks or the fact that young persons have not fully matured”
Why are young workers at risk?
As we discussed in our post ‘5 tips to engage the next generation’, there are numerous reasons why young people are more vulnerable. Common factors for this increased risk include:
- possible physical and psychological immaturity;
- lack of awareness of the risks involved in the work they may be asked to do;
- ignorance of risks associated with plant, equipment and substances;
- eagerness to impress or to please
What can I do to keep young workers safe?
The key to ensuring the safety and health of young people in the workplace is having a good health and safety management system that protects everyone. Here is a 12-point checklist for employers with responsibilities for young workers.
- Has someone been appointed to be in overall charge of young workers, including those on work experience placements?
- Where students are on a work experience placement, has effective liaison been established with the placement organisers, including arrangements for regular monitoring and reporting of accidents/incidents/ill health?
- Have ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessments been carried out?
- Have any additional control measures required for young people been clearly identified?
- Have risk assessments taken account of any special health and safety needs, which young workers may have as a result, for example, of any physical, and learning disabilities, or health issues such as allergies, asthma and respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes, colour blindness or use of prescription medicines?
- Have work activities which young people should be prohibited from undertaking been clearly identified?
- Have necessary steps been taken to isolate or make safe dangerous tools, plant, equipment or substances?
- Have any necessary arrangements for personal safety and freedom from sexual harassment and bullying been considered?
- Have parents or guardians been informed of risks and control measures?
- Have arrangements been made for appropriate supervision and induction training?
- Have work tasks for young people been properly defined and explained? Do young people understand what is required of them in order to protect their own safety and health and that of others? And finally…
- Have young workers been provided with appropriate health and safety induction training? Make sure you cover issues such as the company’s policy, personal responsibilities, common hazards on site, what they need to know to protect themselves and others on day one, who to go for advice and what to do if things seem unsafe.
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