Keeping young people safe at work

Young workers (between 15 and 24) add energy and a new perspective to the workplace, but they are also at more risk of injury. In Victoria alone, 2,554 young workers were injured at work in 2016. The highest number of injuries occurred in the construction, retail and manufacturing industries.

In Victoria, 2,554 young workers were injured at work in 2016 .

Research in South Australia found the most common injuries for young workers include lacerations or wounds, soft tissue incursion, contusions, bruising, superficial crushing, fractures or foreign particles in their eye, ear or nose. Thankfully you can put in place programs and procedures that will help prevent young workers from being injured.

 

Young workers often lack experience and perception

Protective headwear and gloves Some safe work practices are learned on the job. 

While it’s essential that everyone has a safe workplace, the needs of young workers are often different to more experienced people. That’s because some safe work practices are learned on the job. Young workers may not have spent enough time at the coalface to understand what the consequences of their actions are or may not know when a situation is risky.

Even when young workers are aware that a situation is unsafe, lack of confidence or fear may mean they’re less likely to speak up or ask questions. On the flip side, some may be over-confident and unaware of what they don’t know which can also be dangerous.

 

Prevention is better than cure

Male and female workers looking at plans Managers and supervisors can take on the role of mentoring young workers. 

There are several initiatives that you can put in place that will create a safer workplace for young workers. These include:

  • Train and onboard them: While many roles rely on on-the-job training to get their workers up to speed, it’s also important to onboard young workers correctly. Onboarding could include explaining your company’s safety policies and procedures, in addition to how to report incidents and helping them understand what some of the main hazards are. This means young workers will be armed with information before they get down to work.
  • Provide personal protective equipment: Every worker requires the right tools and equipment to complete their job safely, but young workers also need to know where they are and be shown how to use them. By making sure equipment is readily available and training is on-hand, young workers can take steps to protect themselves at work.
  • Give them a mentor: Managers and supervisors can take on the role of mentoring young workers. This could be a formal arrangement or one that develops naturally. Either way, encourage experienced workers to take new workers under their wing and give them a safe space where they can learn and ask questions.
  • Have an effective culture of communication: Communication goes both ways. People who are new to your workplace need to have clear instructions that they understand. But it’s also important that they feel comfortable asking questions and expressing an opinion. If managers and supervisors demonstrate that it’s alright to challenge situations and have open discussions, it will pave the way for everyone else in the organisation.
  • Put in place good work design: Every workplace has a responsibility to provide a safe working environment. This can include making sure that processes, procedures and environments are designed in a way that mitigates risk. Often good work design can also improve productivity and increase employee engagement, which is a win/win for everyone.

To help you create a safe workplace, partner with an agency who understands what you need.