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Young workers more likely to suffer injury in the workplace

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Young workers more likely to suffer injury in the workplace

Posted by Paul Gordon at December 03. 2009


Dear colleagues,


I am writing to you from the other side of the globe in London, United Kingdom, on behalf of the British Safety Council - a leading health and safety charity.


In the United Kingdom a young person is injured at work every 40 minutes. In the last ten years, 66 under-19s have been killed at work. Evidence from around the world suggests that young people have a higher than average risk of being killed or injured in the workplace.


For many young people the world of work can be challenging and rewarding. We see too many reports of young workers not being provided with adequate training and supervision. Examples of bad practice adorn our newspapers on a regular basis. In the 21st Century, there is no reason why a young person, or any worker, must lose their life because their employer was neglectful or ill prepared.


A priority for the British Safety Council is to help young people, the workforce of tomorrow, to understand and play their part in managing the risks they will face at work.  The BSC has made a major commitment to fund and safety awareness qualifications for 14-19 year olds before they embark on their first job. This heightened awareness will count for nothing, however, if young people are not properly protected from the many risks they will face through appropriate training and supervision. 


The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has put forward recommendations to reduce this risk, these include; targeting sectors where young workers are most at risk, targeting the prevalent risks, and incorporating occupational health and safety into mainstream education.


It is likely that there is still substantial under reporting of workplace injuries to young people. Some employers might be reluctant to report accidents, or a young worker may wish to avoid being seen as a ‘complainer’.


Research from Canada indicates that the highest risk time for young workers is their first 4 weeks on the job. This research suggests that young, inexperienced workers are more than 5 times more likely to be injured during their first four weeks of employment.


The higher degree of risk faced by young workers include is caused by a lack of experience, awareness and training, a higher likelihood of undertaking physically demanding work, and a high frequency of irregular working arrangements.


It follows logically that those workers with the least experience are more likely to injure themselves due to a lack of knowledge and competence. There is a need to raise the profile of occupational safety awareness within education and help prepare young workers properly for the risks they will face.


Physically demanding working conditions such as handling heavy loads, repetitive work, and working in uncomfortable positions are experienced more commonly by young workers than the average workforce. Young workers are more likely to partake in lower grade, manual tasks. Young male workers are also more likely to be allocated strenuous tasks than older workers.


Young workers frequently work irregular hours and are employed under irregular working arrangements. Shift work can increase the risk of workplace injury. Working at night can lead to a higher risk of accident, due to the often lower number of workers and supervisors.


Young workers in casual employment can be considered particularly vulnerable. In some cases their employers may not comply with or acknowledge the health and safety and employments laws. They may be denied entitlement to sick pay, a fact which may well contribute to the under-reporting of accidents.


A high proportion of temporary workers within the European Union are under the age of 25. Those employed on a temporary basis usually have less access to training and less opportunities to improve their competency. Temporary workers tend to be less informed about health and safety risks. Part time work, which is prevalent among young people, also offers fewer opportunities for training and increases a workers’ vulnerability to health and safety risks. The simultaneous demands of school and work could also explain why young people are more profoundly affected by irregular working hours.


Efforts are being made to educate employers to change their working practices, but if these efforts are unsuccessful then more forceful action must be taken. Tougher sentencing laws would send out a powerful message. There must also be greater investment and commitment to improve education and training for young workers.

I would be very interested to hear your views on these points, as well as any supporting evidence, and ideas on how we can reduce this threat to young workers;


Thank you


Paul Gordon

British Safety Council


Re: Young workers more likely to suffer injury in the workplace

Posted by arun kumar at December 04. 2009

dear Paul,

the picture you paint of young workers in UK, Canada or EU in general is also the scenario here in Asia - except that very few data and studies exist, despite laws and lofty pronouncements. But I do hope that some one on this network from ASia would post some health and safety data or studies in industries in Asian countries. But given that majority of the workforce works in informal economy and in repcarious employment relationships, the health and safety picture is probably worse and not easy to document.

Safety Training and hazards? well the approach in many countries is - workers learns on the job,with the help of peer workers. Employers spend on training mainly for the management staff, not the blue collar - in fact training and training facilties are public funded - job of the govt -

Hazards at work? the policy or rather the attitude appears to be - encourage compensation rather than removal of hazards - and frankly many workers would prefer hazard allowance since their basic wages are low, rather than insist on and support the union (should the union be so inclined) in improving health and safety situation.

Employment is a commodity in short, very short supply and as someone mentioned on this forum - their need for employment is far greater than their desire for decent working conditions

- however, things are also improving - as they say, its progress, not perfection and many employers and unions are working together to promote decent working conditions - in the interest of productivity and exports.

best wishes


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