Improving safety standards on smaller sites

Key tips for handling the risks to younger workers

Posted on 5th Oct, 2020 | By Lorretta Tatham

According to the HSE, men aged between 16 and 24 face a 40% higher risk of all workplace injury than men aged 45-54. This is due to a number of different factors, with many of them directly related to the environment and workplace culture in which they work. This means it’s worth taking particular care to ensure that you’re properly safeguarding the welfare of any young people on your workforce.

Now, you’ll already know that under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, each employer has a legal responsibility to ensure that young people (those legally defined as being under 18) are not exposed to risk. Obviously each workplace is different, and individual employers are the ones who’s best placed to judge the risks, and decide whether it’s necessary to implement any additional measures to deal with them. But if you’re in the midst of making those considerations, here are some useful things to bear in mind.

Why are younger people more vulnerable?

It’s worth starting by saying not every young worker is automatically more vulnerable than their older peers, as in many cases it depends on the nature of the environment in question, and their own personal level of experience and training.

However, in particularly hazardous environments, one of the biggest dangers is that young people can be less aware of workplace risks, and therefore more vulnerable than their older colleagues. What’s more, they may lack specific experience, knowledge or key safety skills, such as the ability to secure their own PPE. This can be compounded by an occasional tendency to work beyond their ability, either because of over-enthusiasm or even misunderstanding a colleague’s instructions.

The consequences of these can be especially severe in the UK’s most dangerous industries, including construction, agriculture and manufacturing.

How can you mitigate the risks as an employer?

In many cases, you may well find that your existing safety procedures are enough to secure the safety of your younger employees. However, it’s worth taking particular care to ensure that young employees aren’t affected by poor training, information or instruction, including inadequate supervision.

Certainly if you’re employing a young person for the first time, or someone with particular needs, it’s a good idea to review your risk assessment. Consider whether your young employee might benefit from any additional induction, closer supervision, more intensive site familiarisation or extra provision of any protective equipment.

Safety when working in loft and roof spaces

As an employer, you should consider:

  • How your young employee will handle work equipment
  • How the work and relevant procedures are organised
  • The layout of the site
  • The level of training they require

Amongst your key priorities should be to think about the more extreme risks, such as any dangerous biological or chemical agents they could be exposed to (such as asbestos). This includes toxic substances and radiation, as well as the hazards posed by extreme cold, heat, noise or vibration.

The Health and Safety Executive also specifically advises thinking about whether the work involves risks that young people might not be able to reasonably recognise or avoid due to any insufficient training or experience.

Don’t forget the basics, too. Consider whether any work might be beyond their physical or psychological capacity, such as whether they have the strength for manual handling tasks.

And if you decide that they could benefit from any additional training or guidance, that’s exactly what we provide here at Browns Safety. We provide a wide range of accredited safety courses on a range of topics, including basic Working at Height training, and access equipment courses. Since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we also now offer a comprehensive range of online safety courses. We are currently taking bookings for these courses, so if you’d like to reserve your places, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can click through to the main course pages listed above, or alternatively contact us directly by calling us on 01282 615517, or emailing us on

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