Young construction workers at risk

Ensuring all new workers are familiar with health and safety arrangements on your construction site is critical, but young workers in particular require special treatment.

Workers aged 15 to 25 have a 75 per cent greater chance of being hurt, and in NSW 15 people in this age group are injured every day, with building sites one of the highest-risk workplaces. Typical injuries include cuts, lacerations, bruises, contusions, punctures and fractures.

Young construction workers are also more likely to experience manual handling injuries, such as sprains, strains and tears, from incorrect lifting or moving heavy or awkward objects. Falls from height are another major risk and building sites usually have numerous pitfalls such as ladders, floor openings, roofs, scaffolds and stairs.

One reason why young workers are more vulnerable is they are less likely to recognise and be able to cope with potential hazards. This requires knowledge, skills and experience only gained by time on the job. On a building site, this inexperience and lack of awareness can increase the chances of being injured or causing an injury.

So while it might be costly and time-consuming to provide extra training to bring younger workers fully up to speed on potential hazards and safe working practices, it is a smart investment as well as a legal requirement.

A training checklist for young workers could look like this:

  1. Give clear instructions about a job or task and safety precautions to take.
  2. Ask them to repeat your instructions back to you to make sure they understand.
  3. Encourage them to ask you questions about the task or anything else.
  4. Show how to perform a task and get them to demonstrate and repeat it until they have it correct.
  5. Provide written instructions on their job and tasks, and stress the importance of learning these and referring to them as often as required.
  6. Explain and demonstrate equipment and machinery safety features and make sure they understand how these work. Also show them the personal protective equipment required to do tasks safely, where to find it, and how to use it properly.
  7. Ask if they have any questions and make sure you or a supervisor monitors the worker’s progress and performance, especially in their first few weeks, and repeat training where necessary.

Before entering a construction site, all young workers must complete external General Construction Induction Training (GCIT) and hold a current WorkCover-issued GCIT card.

More guidance is available at the WorkCover website or call 13 10 50.

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