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Young workers

Young workers aged from 15 to 24 years make up about 18 per cent of the Queensland workforce. Around 4400 young workers are seriously injured at work in Queensland each year.

Each year over 4,000 young people are seriously injured at work. For young workers, safety is not as simple as….

“You’ll get the hang of it.”

They may be afraid to speak up. So, it’s not as simple as…

“Yeah, shout out if you’ve got any questions.”

They are less likely to know when something is unsafe. So, it’s not as simple as…

“You’ve done the training right?”

They want to do a good job and not be a bother. So, it’s not as simple as…

“It just needs to get done.”

They are easily influenced. So, it’s not as simple as…

“She’ll be right, mate.”

Keeping young workers safe isn’t simple.

But it should never be too hard.

Tell them. Show them. Watch them.

In a number of industries, young workers are over-represented in injury statistics compared to older and more experienced workers. Because young workers are a diverse group of  individuals who are predisposed to reacting and behaving differently in different situations, it makes sense to use different methods when engaging and communicating with them.

Did you know that young workers:

  • have a unique risk profile
  • are vulnerable to peer pressure and will model the behaviour of their co-workers, whether right or wrong
  • often cannot perceive when a situation becomes risky
  • can be reluctant to ask questions or raise concerns about their safety.

Factors that impact young workers' health and safety

Four areas can impact the WHS of young workers, positively or negatively.

Young workers

  1. Mind and body - Understanding the unique characteristics of a young person, such as their risk profile and the effect of peer influence can help to explain why they are more likely to be exposed to risk in the workplace.
  2. Education and learning - Developing young workers' capability to effectively assess and manage risks through education, training and work experience helps them remain safe at work.
  3. Good Work design - Good work design involves ensuring that work tasks, relationships and responsibilities are designed to effectively manage safety risks and contribute to better health and wellbeing, job satisfaction and productivity.
  4. Workplace culture - A positive workplace culture driven by strong safety leadership and effective communication is vital to engaging young workers in WHS.

Take action using the Young worker health and safety toolkit

The Young worker safety toolkit (PDF, 4.59 MB) helps employers of young workers, education and training providers, youth service providers and parents and caregivers engage with young people about work health and safety. It encourages actions that build the capabilities of young workers to be safe and productive at work, rather than just relying on them to speak up or ask the right questions.

The toolkit includes a range of resources such as films, presentation templates and checklists that are based on an understanding of how young people learn and communicate with others.

Tips for employers

As an employer, you must ensure the work environment and the way workers carry out their work is healthy and safe, regardless of the type and terms of their employment. This includes protecting young workers from both physical and psychological workplace hazards. Employers of young workers should:

  • understand young workers' risk profile
  • ensure a safe and healthy workplace
  • provide information, training, instruction and supervision
  • develop a positive workplace culture.

Consider the skills, abilities and experience of young workers. Supervisors and managers of young workers are encouraged to use the ‘Tell me, show me, watch me’ approach when undertaking task-specific inductions with young workers.

Step 1: Tell me

Provide a clear and detailed explanation of the task to the young worker, paying particular attention to critical elements and making the young worker aware of documented procedures.

Step 2: Show Me

Demonstrate the task while the young worker watches, explain key points and ask the young worker questions to check for understanding at particular intervals.

Step 3: Watch me

Review the young worker perform the task and provide clear and constructive feedback to ensure they are performing the task correctly and safely.

Prior to starting work, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must consider a young worker's knowledge and assess their ability to work safely and test their competency. It is not sufficient to accept a young worker's assurance that he or she is experienced and competent.

Use the Young worker safety toolkit (PDF, 4.59 MB) to apply these principles in your workplace.

Watch the three films for supervisors and managers to see these principles in action.

Tips for young workers

As a young worker, think about why your health and safety is important, not just for your job but for enjoying your life outside of work as well. Statistics show that you are more likely to be injured in the first few months of a new job than if you've been doing it for a while.

Your employer has a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This means providing information, training, instruction and supervision to protect you from any risks to your health and safety. You also have responsibilities under work health and safety legislation, including:

  • following all reasonable instructions
  • following workplace policies and procedures
  • not putting yourself or your workmates at risk
  • wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as required
  • reporting unsafe situations, injuries or near-misses to your immediate supervisor and/or employer.

It is important to actively participate in the way that work health and safety is managed in your workplace. This means taking induction and training seriously, using the risk management process for your work tasks and asking for help before you start a task you're not familiar or comfortable with.

Some ways you could ask your immediate supervisor for help are:

  • 'I'm not sure how this works, could you spare a few minutes to show me again?'
  • 'I think I've got the hang of this, but can you watch to make sure I'm doing everything right?'
  • 'I'm still a bit uncomfortable with this, would you mind explaining it/showing me again?'

Find out if you have an elected health and safety representative (HSR) for your workplace and who they are. If you are concerned about your own or your workmates' health and safety, talk to your immediate supervisor, employer and/or HSR straight away. If you work through a group training organisation, labour hire agency or work experience placement, report your concerns to them as well.