Beware – working when young

During the January to March 2019 quarter, we prosecuted eight companies in the district or local courts for breaching work health and safety laws.

In all these cases employers were fined for tragedies that could have easily been avoided.

In four cases, young workers were seriously injured and one young worker died.

Photo of a young female construction worker.

A 25 year old male sustained serious injuries when he and his co-worker fell 11 storeys from a 12 storey building while cleaning the outside windows. The ropes failed on the exterior maintenance platform they were working on. As a result, the business was fined $300,000 for neglecting to maintain their equipment.

Another 25 year old male sustained fatal head injuries when he fell from his motorbike while mustering sheep on a farm north east of Broken Hill. He was not wearing a helmet.

Two more young workers were critically injured in incidents while cleaning in commercial kitchens. A 17 year old male suffered third degree burns to both his feet and subsequently spent seven weeks in hospital while mopping up hazardous chemicals at a Queanbeyan hotel.

A 24 year old male slipped and stepped into a pot of hot cooking oil when he was cleaning the canopies of a commercial cooking unit. He also sustained third degree burns up to his knee and required skin grafts.

Tony Williams, SafeWork NSW Executive Director of Operations said regardless of how a young worker is employed or in which industry, they require extra support to ensure they are carrying out their tasks correctly and safely.

“We know young workers are less likely to speak up, they don’t have the experience and they are often employed in more casual or temporary positions, all of which makes them more vulnerable to hazards,” Mr Williams said.

“If you are a young worker you need to know your rights and understand that your employer has obligations to ensure your workplace is safe and you are trained for your job.”

All workers have the right to:

  • be shown how to work safely
  • appropriate safety equipment
  • speak up
  • say no to unsafe work
  • be consulted
  • workers compensation
  • a fair and just workplace
  • fair pay and conditions.

You have obligations too, such as taking reasonable care of yourself, not doing anything that would affect the health and safety of others at work and following any reasonable health and safety instructions from your employer.

“If you are an employer or supervisor it is critical that you encourage all young workers to speak up when they are not sure how to do a job or don’t feel that a job they are doing is as safe as it could be,” said Mr Williams.

“This will be something they can then carry through their working lives that will help keep themselves and others safe.”

Our Young Workers e-Toolkit for employers and young workers has a range of resources including how to deal with difficult scenarios and steps for assessing a situation – wait, take five.

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