Are you considering bringing a young person into the workplace?
Trainee schemes, on-the-job learning, investors in people and many other such schemes that invest in the future of our young people are to be applauded. However, nowadays, many organisations are backing off from employing young people for fear of litigation – lawsuits born out of a failure to protect young workers from the hazards that, as seasoned employees and industry professionals, we take for granted.
Like many EHS specialists, my inbox recently contained an automated email from the HSE highlighting their new guidance on young people in the workplace. Sadly, this email also contained a link to the details of an accident in which a 19-year-old apprentice had apprentice fractured his skull falling more than six metres from a scaffold during construction of a new leisure centre.
But does it need to be this way? Learning on the job is an invaluable experience and ensuring the appropriate measures are in place means that we can continue to nurture our young talent, bringing our employees of tomorrow through the ranks – in a safe and measured way.
A Tailored Approach
The HSE’s website makes it clear that while employers do not have to undertake separate risk assessments for young people, they do need to make sure that they have suitable and sufficient risk assessments in place for any workers under 18 years old. This includes employees and work placement students. Students who are on a training scheme or work placement are deemed to be employees for the duration of the placement.
Young people may be more vulnerable in the workplace for a number of reasons, not least because of their lack of familiarity with the workplace, the workplace activities and the pace of work. Over-enthusiasm and a desire to prove they can do the job may result in an increased risk of accidents. Young people may also feel under peer pressure to perform, or indeed underperform. It is therefore especially important to ensure that young people know and understand what is expected of them, and can remember/follow the instructions when required.
Training will almost certainly need to be tailored to their specific needs and prior knowledge. Closer supervision may be required than with more mature and /or experienced employees.
Remember, most young people will be unfamiliar with many of the ‘obvious’ workplace risks and the anticipated behavioural responses. Adopting a ‘buddy’ system may help them to be confident about discussing any specific issues such as lack of manual handling techniques or the inappropriate pace of work in relation to their level of ability.
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