By Dean Wilson, WHS Safety Officer
As we begin a new year, you may be welcoming new staff, many of whom will be young people embarking on their first job. In Australia, young people (15-24 years) account for approximately 20% of our workforce. While there are benefits to hiring young workers such as cost effectiveness, enthusiasm, and flexibility, young people can also be at higher risk of workplace injury. In a SafeWork Australia study, 12% of serious injury claims in 2018/2019 were made by workers under 25 years.
Safe Work Australia identified some reasons young workers are vulnerable:
- Lack of experience and maturity
- Yet to develop their skills and competencies
- Reluctance to speak out about problems
- Keen to impress their employer
- Over-confident in their capabilities
- A lack of awareness of WHS risks and responsibilities.
In 2019, Australian Workers Compensation reported that Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing had the highest rates of serious injury in Australia, and not far behind in third place was Transport and Warehousing. As employers within these industries, it is essential we take the safety of young workers seriously and ensure safe work practices and training begin on the day they start.
Leaders within your organisation have the greatest influence over young people. Therefore, it is important to model and prioritise WHS to promote positive and responsible workplace safety attitudes.
Some tips that can help you achieved this include:
- Provide the right tools, training, and supervision
- Education around WHS rights and responsibilities
- Empowering them to speak up about WHS if they identify a problem
- Fostering a positive workplace culture that includes young people.
As an employer, WHS is your responsibility. Ensure you understand the young person’s skills and competencies, remember everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways.
Some ways in which employers can provide support may include:
- Instruction on how to do their job safely and recognise hazards
- Demonstrating how to operate machinery and equipment safely
- Assigning a mentor to the young person, or a buddy of similar age with more experience but is more comfortable for the young person to approach.
- Introduce them to the staff and include them in office culture
- Provide PPE where appropriate and show workers how to use it
- Let workers know how they can report safety concerns and hazards
- Introduce them to workplace layout, immediate supervisors, and co-workers
- Develop an Induction program that requires signing off before commencement in their role.
Young workers also have a responsibility for their safety at work including:
- Following all reasonable instructions
- Following workplace policies and procedures
- Not putting yourself or other employees at risk
- Wearing PPE as required
- Reporting unsafe situations, injuries, or near misses to your supervisor
Having the right systems in place at your workplace to provide young people with the safety support that will protect them will go a long way to ensure that the next generation of workers’ journey will be a safe one.
If you have any concerns or would like to improve the safety in your workplace, TABMA can assist you with tailoring a system to suit your needs. Contact Dean Wilson email@example.com to discuss your safety requirements.