Teenage workers can be a real asset to your business. More often than not they’re energetic, enthusiastic and keen to prove themselves in the workplace.
Like all vulnerable workers, however, young workers usually require some extra attention to keep them safe. They may overlook some work health and safety risks, and need to understand the value of following safety procedures to protect themselves.
One in five work injuries in Australia happen to workers younger than 25 years with most injuries happening during the first six months on the job. While they may look mature, typically they will have little or no work experience or training and might let an eagerness to please or fit in prevent them from asking how to do tasks safely.
And if a young person is not being supervised properly then they will be at more risk of making an error with equipment or tools, or may cut corners that could result in an unfortunate incident.
But there are plenty of positive steps you can take to help keep teenage workers safe and your business operating productively. Proper training and supervision also enables teenagers to develop quality skills and safe work practices.
It is essential that supervisors keep a close eye on teenage workers and ensure they know how to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and safety equipment. The supervisor also needs to alert the young worker to any potential hazards and take every reasonable precaution to prevent them from getting hurt.
Supervisors must also ensure that young workers don’t copy poor safety examples of older co-workers. Teens may assume that if a senior workmate can do it without incident, then so can they.
Teenage years are also a turbulent time for mental health. It is a time when rates of anxiety and mood difficulties are higher. Supervisors need to be aware of signs that a young person is struggling and know how to talk to them about their concerns and suggest where they might go to get help.
Here are a few tips to help keep your teenage workers safe:
- Conduct thorough workplace training, including how to identify hazards and manage risks, so they are better prepared to do the job safely. It’s also important to put this training into practice – make sure young workers understand what they’ve learnt and can apply it to the job.
- Encourage supervisors to watch young workers closely and let them know if they are doing jobs incorrectly or in a dangerous manner.
- Encourage them to speak up if they feel a task is too dangerous or difficult.
- Encourage them to ask questions when they aren’t sure how to perform a task safely.
- Remind them that poor work practices can also cause illness that might not become evident until much further down the track.
- Make sure they know what to do and where to get help during a workplace emergency.
- Ensure that workplace safety and behaviour rules and procedures are followed, and provide PPE if necessary.
- Encourage the reporting of injuries, hazards and near misses, regardless of how minor.
- Feeling tired at work can lead to risky behaviour and dangerous mistakes so encourage (as best you can!) young workers to try to get a good night’s sleep before heading to work.
- Make sure they know what workplace support options are available for mental health, such as an Employee Assistance Program and sick leave.
Click here to find out how help keep young and other vulnerable workers safe, or call us on 13 10 50.