2. Risks to young people at work
As an employer, you should already be managing any significant risks for all workers in your workplace. But you should assess any additional factors if you employ a young person, such as a health condition which may be affected by the work or the work environment.
Employing a young person for the first time
If you are employing a young person for the first time, or employing one with particular needs, you should review your risk assessment before they start.
You do not need to do a separate risk assessment for work experience students, as long as your existing assessment already considers the specific factors for young people.
If you already employ a young person
If you employ a young person already, or have done recently, your existing arrangements for assessment and management of the risks for new young people should be enough. This is providing that the new starter is of a similar level of maturity and understanding, and has no particular needs, such as a disability.
Greatest risks to young people
For many young people the workplace will be a new environment and they will be unfamiliar with 'obvious' risks and the behaviour expected of them.
They may lack experience or maturity. Make sure they understand what is expected of them, check they understand and are able to remember and follow instructions.
They may not have reached physical maturity and be more at risk if their muscle strength is not fully developed. They may be less skilled in handling techniques or in pacing work according to their ability.
When assessing a young person's physical capability, you could simply ask yourself if a still developing young person could lift the weights older, more experienced workers can.
Young people may be unaware of how to raise concerns, so make sure this is part of their training.
They may be eager to impress or please people they work with, so you should supervise them effectively and make sure they understand any training and instruction.
Levels of risk
Low risk environments
For placements in low-risk environments, such as offices or shops, with everyday risks that will mostly be familiar to the young person or student, your existing arrangements for other workers should be enough.
Less familiar risks
For environments with risks less familiar to them (for example in light assembly or packing facilities), you should make arrangements to manage the risks. This should include induction, supervision, site familiarisation, and any protective equipment needed.
For work in a higher-risk environment such as construction, agriculture and manufacturing:
- consider the work they will be doing or observing, the risks involved and how they are managed
- satisfy yourself that the instruction, training and supervisory arrangements have been properly thought through and work in practice
Consider specific factors that must be managed for young people, including exposure to:
- noise and vibration
- toxic substances
- extreme temperatures
Where these exist, you should already have control measures in place.
Harmful exposure means exposure that has long-term health effects on a still-developing young body. You should be aware of the substances they might come into contact with, consider exposure levels and ensure legal limits are met.
Also consider legally required age limits on the use of some equipment and machinery (for example forklift trucks and some woodworking machinery).
Written risk assessment
If you have fewer than 5 employees you do not need to do a written risk assessment. If a work experience student increases your staff to 5 you do not need to do a written risk assessment for this temporary period.