A hazard warning sign in white against a yellow background, symbolising danger.
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Health and safety: Protecting young people at work

28 Apr 2023

BrightHR’s Thea Watson dives into some of the legalities around working with young people and how businesses can mitigate any potential risks.

Working with young people can be amazing as they bring fresh talent, energy and diverse skills to your business.

However, most young people don’t have experience with safety standards in work environments. They’re often fresh out of school, and your business might be their first introduction to the world of work. So how can you make your workplace safer for young employees?

Who counts as a ‘young person’ in the world of work?

A young person is anyone who’s over 16 but under 18. As mentioned, working with young people is great, but there are specific rules you must follow. Here’s a quick look at a few rules for working with young employees.

They must:

  • Only work up to 40 hours a week
  • Have at least a 30-minute break
  • Not work night shifts between 10pm and 6am. There are some exceptions to this rule, including licensed premises (which can allow work up until 11pm — if the shift isn’t before a school day, when the young person is attending school).

Besides the rules above, you also have legal responsibilities as an employer working with young people.

You must record their working hours, ensure they don’t face age discrimination and promote a safe work environment. It’s also essential to manage your young worker’s health and safety to the same standard as adult employees.

Young people can’t do certain high-risk jobs and can only work within their physical or psychological capacity. They also can’t do work that exposes them to hazardous substances. Some examples are activities where they’re exposed to extreme cold, noise or vibrations.

However, there are a few exemptions to these rules. A young person can conduct work involving certain risks if:

  • The work is necessary for their training
  • A competent person supervises the work
  • You reduce the risks to the lowest level

Click here to go to the BrightHR website.

How an unsafe work environment affects your business

Sometimes employees face unknown risks, making unchecked workplace hazards very dangerous. That’s why it’s best to give them clear instructions and training on safety.

For example, an employee misusing equipment could gravely injure themselves. Or a wet floor without a warning sign could lead to a nasty fall.

Besides interrupting your daily operations, you risk damaging your reputation and other legal consequences.

You could face crippling settlement payouts when an employee gets hurt. Some accidents result in life-altering injuries, which you would be liable for as an employer. Many businesses have lost thousands of pounds in compensation – don’t fall into the same situation.

What measures should employers have in place to protect young people?

There’s no need to fret, while this sounds daunting, keeping your staff safe can be easy. Here are a few steps you can take to protect your young employees.

Document and share risk assessments and method statements (RAMS). They should be relevant and in line with any risks your employees will face in their work activities.

Make sure your employers’ liability insurance is in place.

Have an up-to-date company health and safety policy that shows how the business manages risks to health and safety.

You don’t need a specific document for young people if you already have existing arrangements for assessing and managing risks. All you need to do is adapt them to include risks to young people.

By Thea Watson

Thea Watson is the chief international growth and marketing officer at BrightHR. A version of this article was previously published on the BrightHR blog.

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