Hiring young workers has many benefits for business: they’re energetic, can bring in fresh ideas, and are not hampered by bad habits or expectations. But the qualities that make them excellent employees can also make young people more vulnerable in the workplace. The British Safety Council (BSC) “Speak Up, Stay Safe” campaign for greater health and safety awareness in younger people lists the qualities that make them vulnerable to work related accidents:
- Lack of training and/or experience
- More likely to undertake physical work
- More likely to be employed in irregular working arrangements
- Possibly more likely to take risks
- Reluctant to speak up
This susceptibility is highlighted in statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which show that in the five years to 2012, 71 people between the ages of 16 and 24 were killed at work, while 15,205 were injured.
As such, employers need to give younger workers more consideration than old hands when it comes to ensuring their health and safety.
Young workers and the law
If employing anyone under the age of 18, the key piece of legislation employers need to be aware of is the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This act of parliament states that an employer needs to ensure young workers are protected from risks caused by their lack of experience or maturity, or their just being unaware of existing and potential dangers.
While this law only applies to the employment of 16 and 17 year olds, businesses should be mindful that these attributes can be found in many youngsters into their mid twenties.
Therefore, bosses need to consider not only the usual health and safety checks and measures, but also whether additional training and supervision is needed to make up for the limited time young people have spent in the working environment.
They train, you gain
Fortunately, there are a number of courses young people can take to improve their awareness of risks in the workplace and how to avoid them. For example, the BSC offers 14-19 year olds an Entry Level Award in Workplace Hazard Awareness. This useful course teaches young workers about health and safety hazards, safety signs, personal protective equipment and the responsibilities of employers and employees.
Make life easy for them, make life easy for yourself
Key advice from the BSC for ensuring the health and safety of young people is to have practical, ongoing training that uses clear instructions and simple messaging.
As a member of the BSC, TraffiGlove is committed to making health and safety as easy as possible for all workers and we appreciate that it's sometimes confusing to know what's safe and what's not. This is why we developed our colour-coded TraffiSafe system of gloves, so users and supervisors can instantly see if the right protection is being worn for the job. We also provide handy workplace posters that explain which gloves to use and for what tasks, serving as a constant reminder to those new to the job.
Finally, let the young people themselves tell you what they are comfortable doing and what they feel is safe. Providing a qualified supervisor that your young employees feel they can approach with any concerns they have will go a long way to improving not only their health and safety, but also their overall job satisfaction.