Work Health and Safety – High injury rate in young workers

Hiring young workers has so many benefits ─ they generally attract a lower wage, it is a chance to train a team member in the way you like to operate, and you are also providing a valuable opportunity to somebody at the start of their career – something we can all feel good about. When you are hiring young workers, it is important to recognise that the young worker group has higher rates of work-related injuries than older workers, so work health and safety and your PCBU duties need to be key focus areas for employers. Spending time on providing a comprehensive induction and training program, task supervision, and regular engagement and consultation with your young worker team (and your team as a whole) is an irreplaceable investment in the long term success of your business.

Induction and Training

I’ve spoken to clients who say that in the past, they’ve always tried to hire young workers purely to save on wages, but admitted they minimised the time and effort in induction and work health and safety training. More often than not this proved to be false economy, as the cost of workplace incidents is very high. These companies became clients after they realised the potential cost in ‘saving’ money on young workers without proper training. In many cases, they’d relied on their young workers to speak up about safety or ask the right questions, and unfortunately, that isn’t a great risk strategy. Young workers think and communicate very differently to Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers, and are often too caught up in the excitement of starting a new job to comprehend the different safety issues in their workplaces as well as learning the value of following safety procedures to protect them while they are working.

Workplace Injuries

In 2009─2010 Safe Work Australia conducted an extensive survey into work-related injuries experienced by young workers. The report found the injury rate of young workers — the rate of injuries per 1000 workers — was 18 percent higher than for those aged over 25. This means an injury rate of 66.1 work-related injuries per 1000 young workers compared to 56.2 injuries per 1000 workers aged over 25 (1). While this may not seem a significant difference to some readers, it can certainly add up in terms of cost to compensate those workers for injuries sustained on the job.

4 Tips to Ensure Young Worker’s Safety

As an employer of young workers, you have a specific duty to provide information, instruction training or supervision (so far as is reasonably practicable) to your young workers.  To meet your duty of care and to ensure the health and safety of your young workers; consider the following tips:

  1. Induction – Provide your young workers with a comprehensive induction program. The induction should consist of safety policies and procedures, information on hazard and incident reporting, as well as information on workplace hazards and fire and emergency response.
  2. On the job training – Information and instruction does not stop after induction. Your young workers should be provided with extensive training to ensure they can undertake tasks safely and without risk to health.  A process to verify a young worker’s competency at performing tasks safely is crucial.
  3. Supervision – determine supervision requirements for tasks your young workers undertake. The need and extent of supervision provided to your workers should be determine based on the risks associated with each task.  Supervisors of young workers should always be available to answer questions and provide advice and immediately correct any unsafe work habits.
  4. Consultation – consultation with workers is a duty of PCBUs/employers under health and safety law. Develop your workplace culture so that young workers are encouraged to speak up about safety.  Consult with young workers when identifying and controlling workplace risks.  Inform them on how to report unsafe working conditions and encourage them to ask questions about safety if they are unsure.

Safety Consultant

If you would like to successfully build a young worker’s capability and ensure they are committed to performing safely, it’s important to grasp an understanding of how young people learn and process information, and also how they like to communicate with others. A good Safety Consultant can assist you with this. Whether it be training solely your young workers, the entire team, or even just providing a preliminary work health and safety audit, an experienced safety consultant can adapt to the unique needs of your operation.

I think it’s exciting to work with young people and they can be an invaluable investment into your company’s future. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate effective leadership and positively influence their values and beliefs, as well as their knowledge of safety and perception of risk. You are literally influencing and shaping somebody in a career that may last a lifetime, or at least for many years. Most people remember their first job very well, and the mentors they had in that time generally make a lasting impression. Why not get it right – provide the right induction and training, create a fantastic learning experience and be that influential person? Your company culture will flourish and you will prosper as a result.

— Amy Towers, Principal Consultant

Amy Towers is a risk expert with more than 10 years of experience working as a health and safety specialist and consultant. Since receiving her BAppSc in Occupational Health and Safety from RMIT in 2002, she has provided health and safety advice and solutions to clients across a variety of industries, including manufacturing, construction, warehousing, healthcare and retail. She has also assisted senior corporate executives for large corporations. In 2014, Amy founded Safe Work Consulting, now Risk Collective, a risk management firm specialising in workplace health and safety. It offers clients exceptional professional service in end-to-end safety management systems that are simple and sustainable.

We are always happy to hear your questions or have a chat about how we could work together on your work health and safety, training, induction, and what your PCBU duties are. Amy is available as a Safety Consultant for businesses in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.  Please contact us if you would like a confidential chat or consultation.

References –
(1) Statistics about Young Worker work-related injuries

Recommended further reading –
(1) Young Worker Toolkit

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