Children in workplaces
There are many reasons why a child might be at a workplace. If you conduct a business or undertaking, you have a duty to make sure children are safe at your workplace, regardless of the reason or time they are there.
What do we mean by ‘children at workplaces’?
This page is about people under 18 who are:
- in a workplace
- not there as a worker.
You can find information elsewhere on our site about the:
The Children and young workers code of practice 2006 also includes information about children on farms and workers under 18 (PDF, 0.42 MB).
Children may be visiting a workplace, may live at a workplace, or may be there as part of a work process. Some examples are when they:
- visit a parent’s workplace
- enter a shop, as customers or with parents
- attend childcare or after-school centres
- receive treatment in a hospital, medical centre, or centre for people with a disability
- live on a farm or other workplace, for example, a caravan park
- ride in vehicle used for work
- enter a work area used by someone who works from home.
Note this also includes:
- children who enter a workplace without permission—for example by accident, or to explore, take a short cut, or do something illegal (like graffitiing)
- less obvious places of work, for example, a whale-watching boat.
What are the risks?
Children are not likely to think about the risks of being in a workplace. They will play, explore, climb, hide, go where they are not supposed to go, and test out materials and equipment.
Hazards to children in places of work carry the risk of injury, illness, or death.
How do I manage the risks?
Workers and management can work together to reduce the risks. Remember, children have different characteristics to adults that impact on their ability to detect a hazard and stay safe.
Following the four-step management process below will help your business meet its responsibilities under work health and safety laws. You can also read more about how to create safe work.
Four steps to managing risk
The first step to managing the risks associated with children at your workplace is to identify hazards.
- why children would enter your workplace
- what they’re likely to do
- how they can get in.
Think about access after normal work hours too.
Particular hazards for children in workplaces include:
- hazards on construction sites, where, for example, scaffolding poses the risk of serious falls
- hazards on farms, where, for example, children could get seriously injured by climbing on wool bales or haystacks, or when riding on tractors or on the back of utes
- electrical hazards, including overhead powerlines and electrical equipment
- hazardous chemicals and other substances
- machinery and vehicles, for example forklifts and quad bikes
- equipment, for example, a teenager was fatally injured when lifting an irrigation pipe, which made contact with a powerline
- infections and diseases
- slips, trips and falls
- confined spaces, for example, tanks and silos.
Put together a list of hazards in your workplace by:
Inspecting your workplace
- Walk through your workplace and look at the environment and work processes. Refer to the Children and young workers code of practice 2006 (PDF, 0.42 MB) and make a note of any hazards that might impact on a child should they visit your workplace.
Talking to your workers
- Talk with your workers about the hazards they can see that might harm children at your workplace. Also ask about when children would need to be at your workplace. What controls would they suggest to keep children safe?
- You could also talk to the children who come to your workplace. Find out what they do and any suggestions they might have, like creating safe play areas, for staying safe.
Reviewing available information
- Look at a range of sources to help identify hazards, for example, find out how other places of work are managing children in their workplaces.
- If your place of work is your home, or if you employ people working from home, you can read more about electrical safety at home and child safety at home to identify possible risks
- Look at your own records, including any recorded incidents, near-misses, sick leave, or worker complaints.
Next, you'll need to assess the level of risk posed by each hazard. This information will help you choose the best ways to control that risk. You can use this risk assessment template (DOCX, 0.02 MB) to guide you and record your assessments.
A risk assessment can help you figure out:
- where, when and how children at your workplace might be at risk
- the possible degree of harm for a child
- whether any control measures are already in place and if they’re effective
- what actions you can take to control the risks and keep children safe
- how quickly you should act.
Once you’ve got a good understanding of the risks to children at your workplace, you should choose how you’re going to reduce or eliminate the risk. The law requires you to put controls in place that minimise the risk as far as reasonably practicable. This means doing what you’re reasonably able to do.
Remember to consider children’s special characteristics. For example, they might:
- not be able to read or understand warning signs
- be curious, energetic, or playful.
You should also think about the risks to children who might be at your workplace outside work hours.
Use the practical advice in the How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB) to help you develop effective controls in your workplace.
The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest protection to the lowest.
The highest level of control is to eliminate the risk. Some places of work, like construction sites, might be so dangerous to children that you need to eliminate the hazard by not allowing children to be there at all.
Because it’s not always possible to stop children from entering the workplace, you should also consider:
- physical barriers, for example:
- lock chemicals away in cupboards
- create a secure, fenced play area around the house on farms
- keep keys to vehicles or machinery locked way when not in use
- engineering controls, like installing safety switches to automatically shut off the electricity when there is a risk that someone could be electrocuted. Read more about electrical safety.
Administrative controls are not as effective as removing the risk, but they play an important role. This can include:
- work processes, like always removing keys from vehicles, for example, quad bikes
- having clear rules, including the level of supervision
- making sure that everyone, including children, understand what the rules are, and that the rules are followed.
You should also have suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), for example, helmets if they’ll be riding on an appropriately sized quad bike or motorbike.
You should regularly review your control measures. Don’t wait for something to go wrong. If necessary, change or adjust your approach.
The committee was established to ensure there is an ongoing consultative forum for injured workers and families affected by a workplace death, illness or serious incident. Read more about the committee.
Codes of practice
- Children and young workers code of practice 2006 (PDF, 0.42 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)