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The right start - shaping a culture of safety for young workers

Supervisors and managers influence the health and safety of young workers through good work design. Good work design for young workers includes effective induction and training, appropriate supervision and feedback, and support and mentoring.

The film titled 'The right start: shaping a culture of safety for young workers' provides scenarios that follow two young workers during their day and highlights the difference between an effective and ineffective supervisor role. It also includes interviews with industry leaders on how they are actively engaging with their young workers to keep them safe today and develop them in to future leaders in health and safety.

As a supervisor or manager of a young worker, you have the greatest influence on their attitude to work safety. This means ensuring an appropriate level of supervision relevant to the tasks that they are performing.

Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 429MB)

On Screen Text

Title: The right start: shaping a culture of safety for young workers

RUN TIME: 12 mins 03 sec

Voiceover: Workers aged between 15 and 24 years make up about 18 per cent of the Queensland workforce.

4000 young workers suffer a serious injury at work each year – that's an injury that keeps them off work for at least 5 days, and possibly one that will affect their ability to work for the rest of their life. A serious injury affects not just the worker, but their colleagues and supervisor, their family and their friends.

As a supervisor or manager of a young worker, you have the greatest influence on their attitude to work safety. This means ensuring an appropriate level of supervision relevant to the tasks that they are performing.

Young workers have a unique risk profile. They may not notice when a situation becomes dangerous, or they may misjudge the level of risk.

They may be less likely to ask questions or raise safety concerns, and they model their behaviour off others – whether that behaviour is right or wrong.

David Watson (Chief Executive Officer, National Glass): Cos they're generally eager they may overestimate their capabilities or the ease of the task ahead. For example, a larger piece of glass which is a two-man lift …they may still try to lift the panel by themselves because they're trying to show that they're eager and they think they can do it.

Elliot Parkinson (Principal advisor, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland): So an induction is really important into a particular task or using a particular piece of equipment, making sure that the worker is competent in – performing that work, it's really important that they understand the work that is going on around them, and it's also really important that they're supervised.

David: They need to respect the environment; so the factory, but also the product, and understand what they're up against. It's a safe environment and it's a safe product if you understand what the dangers are.

AJ Glazebrook (Health, safety and environment cultural specialist, Stanwell Corporation): Young workers are at a different developmental stage than older workers. And with that knowledge we've created a program that allows us to connect and to capture the attention of our young workers in a way that's age appropriate.

Voiceover: Effective induction, proper training, regular supervision and supportive mentoring is vital for a young worker to adopt the right attitude to safety and develop safe work practices.

For example, using a 'Tell me, show me, watch me' approach can help to make sure a young worker is competent to perform a particular task or use a piece of equipment. Similarly, involving young workers in the planning of work procedures helps encourage them to participate in safety meetings, ask questions and raise concerns.

Let's follow two young workers as they go about their work day, to see how the interactions with their supervisors and their experiences can differ.


Voiceover: This is Jack, he is 20 and lives with his mum and dad. He works part time at a warehousing and logistics factory. He has a good working relationship with his boss Steve. Steve knows from his own experiences that showing a bit of extra support and effective communication goes a long way to ensuring a young worker like Jack can work safely.

Voiceover: This is Billy, he is 20 and he is a first year apprentice at a metals manufacturing company. He has just moved in with his girlfriend Jenny.

Billy's boss, John, doesn't really 'get' Billy and he thinks 'Gen Y' are generally a bit frustrating to deal with. He remembers getting by on 'common sense' when he was an apprentice.

(Onscreen text: Induction and training)

Jack: Hey Steve, Matt and I have finished off moving those glass panels you asked us to do. What's next?

Steve: Do you remember where we store this gear?

Jack: Yeah of course, up on the shelves.

Steve: That's correct. But we are going to have to use this electric pallet stacker to get them up there, and that can be risky.

Jack : Yeah I think this is the one I used in my last workplace.

Steve: Ok it's good that you're keen, but we gonna to have to go through and make sure you are competent on using this machine, in this workshop.

Jack: Ok cool.

Steve: The first thing we need to do is go through a pre-start checklist and also go through on how to operate the controls. That's what the documentation and checklist is for. Then we need to find out if there is maintenance issues or defects. If there is any maintenance issues or defects you need to follow that through with me or your floor supervisor.

Jack: OK.

Steve: So I'll give you a demo first by removing that first pallet up there safely, then I'll give you a go to do the second one.

John: Billy – good you are finally here - come over here and make yourself useful. I've got a hundred things I need to do today so I need a hand. Can you get stuck into these brackets we need about 10, all of them with bolt holes and in about an hour, ok.

Billy: Umm yeah, so just wanted me to use the drill press to put the bolt holes into the brackets?

John: Yep. I've seen you use that before. It's pretty simple, just make sure that's kept down. Common sense. Right.

Billy: Ahh it was actually Chris who was using this I only used the hand held, but it wasn't a problem.

John: Good. If you get stuck just watch one of the other guys, you shouldn't really have any issues with this, it's pretty simple. Oh hang on, my phone's just ringing. Can I leave you with that?

Billy: Yeah that's ok.

(Onscreen text: Supervision and feedback)

Steve: That's how you do it. Any questions before you have a go?

Jack: No, I think I'm right, let's give it a go

Steve: So what's the first thing you need to remember?

Jack: Well, I gotta make sure that the area is clear and that there is nobody around so there is actually enough room to do the job. Then I gotta make sure that the forks are actually in the right position and both and lower and lift the load slowly.

Finally I gotta make sure there's not too much weight on the pallet, the machine or the shelves themselves.

Steve: Ok, it's your turn now.

(Jack uses the pallet stacker)

Steven: Nice work Jack. Were you comfortable with that?

Jack: Yeah I think I did a pretty good job. I'm glad we took it a bit slower though, this one's a lot bigger than the one at my last workplace.

Steve: I see you noticed that the new pallets are a lot heavier, so you took things nice and slow you didn't rush that was good.

John: BILLY!!! What the heck! I told you to keep that clamp down and where's the coolant? This is exactly why mate that could spin out of control and slice you open.

Billy: I'm sorry, was just trying to get it done, you know you said I had an hour to do it and I checked the other guys and they were doing it that way.

John: Well those guys have been doing it for a lot longer than you and they would have been clamping that down, so don't worry about them just worry about what you are doing, alright.

Billy: Ok well…

Gary: John, Where you at? I need those orders out, I need it done before lunchtime. What's the hold up?

John: Sorry Gary, just had a few things come up. One of the guys went home crook and you know we're down on staff and I'm just watching Billy here do some drilling.

Gary: That is our priority ok .I cannot afford to have my floor supervisor over here babysitting the apprentice ok when I've got such a big order to fill. I need it done ASAP ok. Sort it for me!

John: Sure Gary, I'll be back on it in a sec.

John: Sorry about that Billy. Mate I really can't afford this, you're not up to the task so just take five and clean the benches over there will you.

Billy: Ok.

(Onscreen text: Support and mentoring)

Steven: So how did your week at college go last week?

Jack: Yeah really really well.

Steve: I can really see you are enjoying it you are starting to pick up things very quickly.

Jack: Oh thanks

Steve: Speaking of college, if you need me to look at your training record book just let me know.

Jack: Oh that would be fantastic. Cheers Steve.

Steve: How's your footie season going?

Jack: Not as well as my pallet lifting, I'll tell you what.

Lauren: Hey mate.

Billy: Hey.

Lauren: How's things.

Billy: Yeah fine, well except John just sent me on a fiver because I almost shut down production for the day.

Lauren: Woah, ok.

Billy: Yeah, well I was trying to put the bolt holes into the brackets but I didn't secure it to the load the drill press and it just kicked out and almost got me.

Lauren: Yeah, it's pretty dangerous that actually.

Billy: Yeah, well to be honest I don't understand half of what John expects of me. I mean like it's rushed and nothing is clear, it's different from my other job.

Lauren: Have you talked to him about that?

Billy: He kind of looks… busy.

Lauren: Yeah.

Billy: You know I'll be fine you know. Sink or swim right?

Lauren: Yeah you got it.

Billy: See ya.

Lauren: See ya.

Elliot: We know that providing mentoring and social support is really important to allow young workers to engage with their work environment socially.

Some of the examples that we've seen where industries engage with their young workers around safety has had really positive outcomes.

AJ: The YOLO program is a, is a purpose built program of hazard management specifically designed for young workers. …we've created a program that allows us to connect and to capture the attention of our young workers…and we give them fit for purpose tools to identify hazards and to control the hazards.

David: Our policies don't shift whether you're young or more experienced. But what does change is how we communicate or articulate the processes, their responsibilities, and what they're accountable for or we're accountable for as management.

AJ: At every session at the power station we had our power station manager launch the program for us and speak personally to our young, our young employees and what they spoke about was their personal experiences as a young worker and what they now do and what they now consider to be really important from a leadership perspective to guide young workers through their career safely.

David: We also have leadership training here. So we develop the young person or the individual's emotions as well. So they have the hard skills but also the emotional experience to cope with what the challenges are with leading peers or a large team. And on top of that, our operation managers or site managers are very apt and experienced at coaching other teams and team members.

AJ: The key improvement that's been achieved through our YOLO program is a seventy five percent reduction in injuries to young workers since we've run the YOLO program, that's a significant reduction and of course fits very well with our value for safety.

David: It's not just the mentoring program; it's the whole culture that we have they believe it's a good, open environment; there's a high level of trust; we encourage them to continually improve their skill levels. So there's a challenge there.

AJ: The impact on culture has also been with our mentors and with our leaders for them to understand that young workers do in fact see the world slightly differently than do older workers, that realization in itself has a massive impact on our culture because then we can we can go in and make sure that we're talking to our young workers in a way that's fit for purpose for them.

Voiceover: Through effective induction and training, appropriate supervision and good feedback, and supportive mentoring, young workers will become more aware of how to do the job safely. Engaging with young workers through consultation will also enable them to share their ideas around work health and safety and help to improve the way that safety is managed in your workplace.



Work safe. Home safe.


Workplace Health and Safety Queensland thanks the following organisations and people for their participation in this film:
AJ Glazebrook
Bradnam's Windows and Doors
David Watson
Elliot Parkinson
National Glass
Stanwell Corporation
TAFE Queensland SkillsTech