Managing the safety of young people in the workplace.
(Health & Safety at Work - extracts from special report issue 30 Aug ’97 - Croner's)
Reference to 'young person' means 'child' not over the minimum school leaving age.
MHSWR previously required an employer to carry out a 'suitable and sufficient' assessment of the risks to which employees were exposed whilst at work, and to identify any groups of workers who might be at particular risk. The specific new requirements imposed by the Health & Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997 as follows:
Specific risk assessments
An employer must make a risk assessment specifically relating to the employment of young people before employing them. The risk assessment should give particular consideration to:
- the immaturity and inexperience of the young person and any consequential lack of awareness of risks
- the health and safety training to be given to the young person
- the extent of exposure to any chemical, biological or physical agents
- the nature and layout of the work area
- the types of equipment, methods of use and work activities to be undertaken.
In some cases it may be helpful to develop a generic form of risk assessment for young people, that can be easily replicated.
If young people were considered in previous risk assessments then there is no requirement to repeat the process, except as part of the normal review/revision of risk assessments. Where an employer has five or more employees (the young people must be included for the purposes of calculating this number) assessments should be recorded as usual. In common with other risk assessments, they should be reviewed whenever there is any change to the work to which they relate.
Reduction of risks
An employer must ensure that young people are not exposed to risks at work that arise because of their lack of maturity or experience and any consequential lack of awareness of potentially dangerous situations. A young person should not be expected to do any of the following:
- work beyond their physical or psychological capabilities
- perform work which involves harmful exposure to radiation
- perform work which involves risks to health from noise, vibration or extreme heat or cold
- perform work which involves harmful exposure to any agents which can chronically affect health, including those with toxic or carcinogenic efforts or those causing genetic damage or harm to an unborn child.
Having carried out the assessment, the results will suggest whether the employer should restrict the work of young people within the workplace. Even if there is no involvement with any of the work areas specific above, the employer may still feel that there is a significant risk to young people, and in this situation they must not be allowed to do the work.
Where the employer feels the risk can be avoided, and the young person is therefore employed, it is important to ensure that appropriate information, instruction and training is provided, both for the young person and for the rest of the workforce. The principles of risk reduction are the same for young people as for any other group of people, with the additional considerations necessary to allow for their lack of experience and maturity, and possible lack of awareness of risks.
Supervision arrangements should also be carefully considered, particularly as young people may be easily led by a less conscientious member of staff. It is important that they receive thorough instruction and appropriate supervision at this formative stage.
Specific requirements for the employment of children
Where a child is to be employed, the findings of the risk assessment, together with protective and preventative measures to be taken, must be communicated to a person having parental responsibility or rights for the child (e.g. parent or guardian, etc.), although this does not have to be in writing.
Education Welfare Service
4th Floor, Zone A
Bernard Weatherill House
8 Mint Walk
Croydon, CR0 1EA