Web accessibility: Change options
This is an excerpt from the TUC book "Hazards at Work: Organising for safe and healthy workplaces", the best-selling guide to health and safety at work. To buy a copy order here(if you are a safety representative on a TUC training course please speak to your tutor about getting a discounted copy).
BASIC FACTS ABOUT YOUNG WORKERS
In the study Too Young to Die published by the TUC-backed Hazards magazine
in 2006, 16 to 24-
year-old workers were warned that they should make sure they don’t become one of the young workers seriously injured at work every 40 minutes in the UK or killed at a rate of one every month. Some of the facts from Too Young to Die include:
According to the HSE at www.hse.gov.uk/youngpeople/index.htm young people, especially those new to the workplace, will encounter unfamiliar risks from the jobs they will be doing and from the working environment:
Historically the law has recognised the risks by restricting employment of young persons in certain high-risk activities and requiring higher standards of instruction, training and supervision than for adults.
The TUC in its guide for safety representatives Young Workers [pdf] at also stressed the importance of remembering those young people who are on work placement and apprenticeship schemes. The TUC guide refers to the half-a-million school students on work placements each year, and at any one time, over a quarter of a million people on government-supported apprenticeship schemes. This will often be the first time that most young people experience the work environment with the consequential risks.
LEGAL AND OTHER STANDARDS FOR PREVENTION AND CONTROL
Young workers should be protected by the same laws as other workers. See the following chapters in this book:
There is also some specialist legislation dealing with young people at work, such as the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. See the TUC WorkSmart web page which covers many aspects of children’s work rights at
In addition to the requirements of these Regulations that are explained in Chapter 13 of this book, there are some special duties that relate to children and young persons, as follows.
Definition of a child and a young person (Regulation 1)
Risk assessment (Regulation 3)
An employer should not employ a young person unless they have, in relation to risks to the health and safety of young persons, made or reviewed a risk assessment. In making or reviewing the assessment, an employer who employs or is to employ a young person shall take particular account of:
Information for employees (and children) (Regulation 10)
If a child is at work, the employer must provide them with the same information as other employees. There is, however, an extra requirement on the employer before employing a child to provide parents or guardians of children at work (including those on work experience) with comprehensible and relevant information on:
This information can be provided directly to the parents or, in the case of work experience, via an organisation such as the school or the work experience agency.
Protection of young persons (Regulation 19)
Every employer should ensure that young persons employed by them are protected at work from any risks to their health or safety which are a consequence of:
No employer should employ a young person for work:
When control measures have been taken against these risks and if a significant risk still remains, no child can be employed to do this work. Similarly, a young worker cannot do this work unless:
WHAT CAN SAFETY REPRESENTATIVES DO?
The TUC in its guide for safety representatives Young Workers [pdf] encourages safety representatives to protect young workers in the workplace in the following ways:
Safety representatives have the legal right to be consulted on the health and safety content of training programmes for young people – they should be involved in the planning of schemes at the earliest possible stage rather than reacting to problems when training programmes have started.
Safety representatives should report their concerns and those of their members to management in writing. Use Chapter 7 above for ideas on how you can make sure that management get things done.
Guidance for safety representatives: training schemes and work experience
As soon as proposals for any scheme involving young people begin to be discussed at the workplace, employers should involve safety representatives. Safety representatives could draw up their own agenda for discussion with management and the organisers based on the seven points outlined below (adapted to suit local conditions).
1. Safety policy: the employer’s safety policy should be examined to see what it says about the special problems which arise from employing young people. If it needs to be revised, prepare some suggestions.
2. Health and safety performance: the employer’s health and safety record should be studied, including the accident record and any enforcement action by HSE or local authority inspectors. If the attitude to improving health and safety performance is poor, this should be drawn to the attention of the placement organisers or training agency.
3. Work tasks and risks: the tasks which students or trainees are going to
be required to undertake should be studied in detail. What are the inherent
risks? How serious are they? Is the industry or process one which has a higher
than average accident rate? Are there obvious dangers such as use of powered
machinery or tools, potential exposure to toxic
substances, working at heights or working with or near site transport vehicles or in confined spaces?
Safety representatives must be satisfied that the tasks are safe and healthy for young people. Remember that under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, no employer should employ a young person for work which is beyond their physical or psychological capacity; involving harmful exposure to agents which are toxic or carcinogenic, cause heritable genetic damage or harm to the unborn child or which in any other way chronically affect human health; involving harmful exposure to radiation; involving the risk of accidents which it may reasonably be assumed cannot be recognised or avoided by young persons owing to their insufficient attention to safety or lack of experience or training; or in which there is a risk to health from extreme cold or heat, noise or vibration.
4. Restrictions: having made a judgement about the risks, safety representatives can develop their own views about those tasks in the workplace where young people should not be involved; those for which constant supervision by a competent person is required; those which require extra training and instruction. The employer should clearly designate such tasks in the health and safety policy. Workplace hazards are not always obvious to young workers.
5. Induction: a structured health and safety induction programme should be
provided for students or trainees. Safety representatives should be given the
opportunity to explain their role at an
6. Supervision: in addition to supervision of potentially hazardous tasks, safety representatives should consider how students or trainees are going to be supervised in general during their time on a placement or training programme. Supervisors should also be trained in health and safety problems when working with young people.
7. Health and safety training: safety representatives may consider the health and safety content of the job training itself. Many regulations now contain detailed guidance on the information and training for all workers and, in particular, young persons. Although health and safety training should be an integral part of job training it should not disappear among everything else. Separate time should be regularly put aside for health and safety training throughout a scheme. There should be an effective means to check on how much of what students or trainees learn about health and safety is actually retained by them in practice, e.g. assessed fire drills, question and answer sessions, practical demonstrations.
Safety representatives can use the points that they have considered under 1–7 above to place pressure on the employer to meet their obligations.
The TUC and the Learning and Skills Council have produced separate advice for safety representatives on apprentices at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/Apprenticeships.pdf The advice suggests practical steps that safety representatives can take to help to ensure that apprentices learn and work in a safe, healthy and supportive environment.
Download the Young Workers Checklist (PDF)
FURTHER INFORMATION (in alphabetical order)
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
Various resources on young workers health and safety in Factsheets 61–70
Hazards magazine website
HSE priced and free publications
HSE young people at work website
The HSE has a specific web page which draws together HSE information on young people at work in one place
Labour Research Department (see Section 6.2 for contact details)
Health and Safety Law – an LRD Guide £9.50
Learning and Skills Council
Information on learner safety and work experience and the Safelearner website
Simon Jones Memorial Campaign
Simon Jones was killed on 24 April 1998, aged 24, on his first day as a casual worker at Shoreham dock. He was sent to work unloading cargo inside a ship – one of the most dangerous jobs in the country – with only a few minutes’ ‘training’. Campaign aims and resources
Teachernet and the Learning & Skills Council
The Department for Children, Schools and Families publishes guidance for schools and employers on work experience
TUC (see Section 6.1 for contact details)
Trade union information