Young workers (aged from 15-24 years) make up a substantial proportion of the workforce. They can bring energy, new ideas and a fresh perspective. However, young workers are also at risk of workplace injury due to their lack of experience and maturity, and they may be less aware of WHS risks and responsibilities.
They may also be:
- developing their skills, competencies and physical capabilities
- unfamiliar with appropriate workplace behaviours
- reluctant to make requests, ask questions or speak out about problems
- overly keen to please and make a good impression, and
- over-confident in their capabilities.
Leadership is crucial
Employers, supervisors, managers and other leaders of young workers have the greatest influence on their attitude to WHS. They can help create safe and healthy environments for young workers, including by:
- providing the right tools, training and supervision to complete their work safely
- educating them about their WHS rights and responsibilities
- empowering them to have the confidence to speak up about health and safety in the workplace, and
- fostering a positive workplace culture that engages young workers in WHS.
Work health and safety duties
A PCBU is ultimately responsible for WHS. They must ensure the health and safety of all workers so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes protecting young workers from both physical and psychological hazards.
As a young worker, you also have a responsibility to:
- take reasonable care for your own health and safety at work
- ensure you don’t adversely affect the health and safety of others
- comply with any reasonable instructions given by the PCBU, and
- co-operate with any reasonable health and safety policies and procedures.
There are a number of useful WHS resources for young workers and their employers:
- Young worker safety toolkit, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
- Young workers, WorkSafe Victoria
- Safety tips for new and young workers and their employers, WorkSafe WA
- New and young workers, SafeWork SA
- Young workers eToolkit, SafeWork NSW
- Young worker program, NT WorkSafe
Please contact your state or territory WHS authority for further advice and information about young workers.