Young workers aged from 15 to 24 years make up about 18 per cent of the Queensland workforce. Each year in Queensland, around 4,400 young workers are seriously injured at work, and in several industries, young workers are over-represented in injury statistics compared to older and more experienced workers.
To help provide some expert advice, we talked to the department of Queensland Industrial Relations to gain some helpful tips on how young workers can safely navigate their way around a new workplace.
In young workers, we see the combination of a brain that is still developing and a desire to learn and experience new things. This can mean they can take risks without considering the potential consequences.
According to Queensland Industrial Relations, young workers are more likely to be injured at work because of their unique risk profile. "We see the combination of a brain that is still developing and a desire to learn and experience new things — this can mean they can take risks without considering the potential consequences," says a spokesperson of QIR. "They are often inexperienced, and therefore the likelihood of an injury is highest during their first six months in a new job."
It goes without saying that it is important to actively participate in the way that work health and safety is managed in your workplace. For young workers, this means taking induction and training seriously, using the risk management process for your work tasks and asking for help before you start a task you're not familiar or comfortable with.
"You should also find out if you have an elected health and safety representative (HSR) for your workplace and who they are," QIR's spokesperson adds. "If you are concerned about your own or your work mates' health and safety, talk to your immediate supervisor, employer and/or HSR straight away. And if you work through a group training organisation, labour hire agency or work experience placement, report your concerns to them as well."
Some ways you could ask your immediate supervisor for help are:
- "I'm not sure how this works, could you spare a few minutes to show me again?"
- "I think I've got the hang of this, but can you watch to make sure I'm doing everything right?"
- "I'm still a bit uncomfortable with this, would you mind explaining it/showing me again?"
Employers must ensure that the work environment and the way workers carry out their work is safe and healthy, regardless of the type and terms of their employment. This includes protecting young workers from both physical and psychological workplace hazards.
"Leadership and culture play an important role in understanding and influencing young workers’ behaviour," says QIR's spokesperson. "Everyone who works with a young worker can demonstrate effective leadership in work health and safety, which can positively influence a young worker’s values and beliefs, risk perception, motivation, safety knowledge, compliance and participation."
Employers of young workers should:
- Understand young workers' risk profile
- Ensure a safe and healthy workplace
- Provide information, training, instruction and supervision
- Develop a positive workplace culture
While your employer has a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace, including providing information, training, instruction and supervision to protect you from any risks to your health and safety, don't forget, you also have your own set of responsibilities to uphold when it comes to your place of work.
Responsibilities under work health and safety laws includes:
- Following all reasonable instructions
- Following workplace policies and procedures
- Not putting yourself or your work mates at risk
- Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as required
- Reporting unsafe situations, injuries or near-misses to your immediate supervisor and/or employer
As a young worker, the information and instruction you absorb should not stop after induction, instead, you should be continually identifying the gaps within your current skills, abilities and experience, and seek to gain further training and experience within these aspects.
"Young workers should identify more experienced workers at the workplace who can mentor or guide them in their attitude towards work health and safety," QIR's spokesperson notes. "They should also participate in, and support, any workplace programs that aim to improve their safety, after all, their health and safety is important not just for their job, but also for enjoying their life outside of work as well."