With many young Queenslanders leaving school or university this time of year seeking holiday jobs or their first permanent positions, employers are reminded of their duty to ensure new starters receive the induction, training and supervision they need to work safe.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said whether they were going to be there for just a few weeks or in it for the long haul and determined to get their careers off to a good start, young workers often ignored risks in order to make a good impression.
“With the silly season looming and businesses taking on extra staff, it's important to plan ahead and not rush to get workers on the shop floor unprepared or unequipped with the knowledge and training they need to complete tasks safely.
“This applies to any new workers, but it's particularly important for young workers who may not shout up if they have questions or concerns,” Ms Grace said.
“A ruling some months ago in the Maryborough Magistrates Court reaffirmed that employers must provide young workers with appropriate training and not direct them to perform work above their skills and ability.
“A North Burnett meat processing company was fined $90,000 for an incident in which an inexperienced teenager lost his left index and middle fingers.
“This should serve as a real warning, especially as the magistrate was critical of the lack of training given to the injured worker.
“The magistrate said the teenager was pressured to perform duties above his skill set, and noted young people are more vulnerable to authority in the workplace generally.”
Earlier, a company pleaded guilty and was fined $80,000 for failing to meet its work health and safety obligations after a young pipeline labourer's hand was amputated by a wheel trencher. The magistrate said an employer's duty of care involved preventing injury to all workers, no matter if they were fit or fatigued, careful or careless, experienced or inexperienced.
“The magistrate acknowledged the defendant did have a safety management system in place, but it did not address the specific risk in this case. Business owners must be aware young workers often just want to please employers and will take risks to do so,” Ms Grace said.
“Young workers have a unique risk profile and it's up to employers to consider this when managing them—a proper induction, plenty of support, training and supervision are vital.”
More information on young workers and industrial prosecutions is at worksafe.qld.gov.au. You can also download the Young Worker Safety Toolkit (PDF, 4.13 MB), designed to help employers, supervisors, influencers and trainers engage with young people about work health and safety.