Whether through lack of training, knowledge, or simply down to having less experience, it’s a tragic fact that young workers are statistically more likely to be injured at work than those who have been on the job for years. When you employ young people under the age of 18, you have the same responsibilities for their health, safety and welfare as you do for other workers. However, there are considerations around employing a younger workforce that need to be taken into account to ensure a safe environment for all.
Young workers include teenagers, those new to the workforce, college students and anyone up to the age of 24. These younger workers can be a great asset to your workforce, but it’s important to keep in mind that this may be their first job or the first time they are operating equipment. It’s also critical that employers remember that they may have little or no familiarity of key concepts and processes that are taken for granted as common knowledge on the job.
Whilst young workers are capable of making good decisions and knowing right from wrong, their developing brain means that they are more likely to act on impulse and engage in dangerous or risky behaviour. They are less likely to think before they act, pause to consider the consequences of their actions and modify their dangerous or inappropriate behaviour. There is not much you can do to speed the development process of the young workers’ brain, however there’s a lot you can do to ensure their health and safety at work.
Risks to young people
Young people are likely to be new to the workplace and so are at more risk of injury in the first six months of a job, as they may be less aware of risks. They will often be vulnerable, as they may:
- Lack experience or maturity
- Not have reached physical maturity and lack strength
- Be eager to impress or please people they work with
- Be unaware of how to raise concerns
Training and supervision
Young people need training most when they start a job or work experience. They need to be trained to do the work without putting themselves and other people at risk. It is important to ensure that they have understood training which covers, for example:
- The hazards and risks in the workplace
- The control measures put in place to protect their health and safety
- A basic introduction to health and safety, for example first aid, fire and evacuation procedures
Mentors can be used by an employer to act as a support mechanism for a younger worker. A mentor can answer any questions a younger worker may have and act as a role model to highlight how they should behave. Usually a mentor will be a more senior member of staff that is chosen by an employer or a manager to help a new younger worker.
Pay for young workers
Anyone employed and above school leaving age must get paid at least the National Minimum Wage or, if an apprentice, in line with government apprenticeship rates.
Keeping records of young workers’ hours
By law, employers must keep records of any young worker’s:
- Working hours – to make sure they’re not working more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week
- Night work, if they do any – to show they’re not working during restricted hours
- Health assessments offered before starting any night work and throughout their employment
These records must be kept for 2 years from the date they were made.
In an ever aging workforce, young blood should be viewed as an investment. Assessing the risks involved in their employment need not be a negative process, by considering the factors above and allocated experienced and competent supervision, employers are giving young workers a great start to their chosen career.
For further information on the considerations of employing a younger workforce, please contact us here.