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Young workers at increased risk of injury

This Saturday (28 April) marks World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day. This combined day highlights health and safety in the workplace and honours those who have died from work-related illness or injury.

While the health and safety of all workers is paramount, this year there is a focus on improving the health and safety of young workers through ‘generation safe and healthy’.

Due to young workers’ lack of experience and awareness of work health and safety risks, they are at increased risk of a workplace injury.

In South Australia from 2014 to 2017, 8,129 young workers aged 15 to 24 years were injured while at work and received income or medical support. These injuries represent almost 16 per cent of all worker injuries.

Young worker injuries

The most common types of young worker injuries:

Type of injury Number of injuries (2014-2017)
Laceration or wound 2,099
Soft tissue 1,224
Contusion, bruising and superficial crushing 601
Fracture 520
Foreign body on external eye, in ear or nose 441
Young workers at increased risk of injury at work

Young workers often can’t and don’t perceive when a situation becomes unsafe and may not always ask questions or speak up when they feel unsafe, especially if they are a newly employed trainee or apprentice. Young workers can also be more at risk in the workplace due to the effect of peer influence and it’s important for employers to be aware of this.

What can you do to keep your young workers safe?

The supervisor or manager of a young worker has the greatest influence on their attitude to work safely, so it’s important to have the right person managing young workers. It’s an employer’s responsibility to make sure the workplace is safe and healthy and to protect young workers from physical and psychological hazards. Not all young workers will have the appropriate life skills and knowledge, so also consider what you task them with.

Tips for keeping young workers safe:

  • Provide a safe and healthy workplace
  • Provide personal protective equipment
  • Provide an effective induction
  • Identify safety gaps in the worker’s knowledge
  • Provide the right information, training and supervision
  • Provide continuous mentoring
  • Communicate effectively and be sure they have understood their instructions
  • Develop a positive workplace culture where they feel comfortable to speak up and ask questions.