Construction, perhaps on a residential building site, is often an industry where young workers experience their first job. Suffering up to a 40% higher rate of non-fatal occupational injury than co-workers over the age of 25, makes the safety of young workers a top priority.
Some of the most common reasons for this increased number, are:
- Lack of training and experience
- Insufficient knowledge of the safety issues and their legal rights
- Enjoying more physically demanding work
- Not reporting any recognized health or safety hazards
The international majority of young worker fatalities occur in the farming sector and after this, construction, where young workers aged 15-17 are seven times more likely to suffer from a fatal accident. One 18-year-old worker was killed when he was cleaning out a portable mortar mixer on-site but had not been trained in straightforward safety procedures such as “lockout/tagout”. Beginning the day before, he became entangled in the mortar which had not been disconnected from its energy source before cleaning began.
Before a job is even advertised, it is vital to know which work cannot be performed by young workers under the age of 18, often due to the safety issues involved. Always mention any unsafe work and an age-limit clearly in the advertisement, making sure that any hazardous equipment or machinery is working well before a new job starts.
Before a young worker begins, it is vital that they have been provided with any health and safety training required, knowing their own rights. For example, their entitlement to fall protection if they are working from or above a certain height. Guard rails and safety nets are two of the most common forms of fall prevention and could have stopped a young 20-year-old carpenter from being injured, when he fell from the open second story stairway of an apartment building and suffered a skull fracture with serious brain damage.
If a supervisor is required to keep a young worker safe, then safety must remain their top priority as work begins. If a young worker feels that a certain job is unsafe then they should not be afraid to ask whether this work is necessary or if there a safer way of doing something. Also, young workers must consider the safety of others if they notice unsafe behavior or a hazardous on-site location, e.g. a busy area that is often packed up with random equipment or unused machinery.
This year, the World Day Against Child Labour has formed a joint campaign with the International Labour Organization (ILO), marking the World Day for Safety and Health at Work (SafeDay), which aims to improve the health and safety of young workers and encourage an end to child labor.
Click here to view a simple checklist, to provide an easy understanding of:
- Why young workers are the most vulnerable in certain industries.
- How a job should be advertised if it is considered suitable for young workers.
- The importance of health and safety training.
- How to remain safe after work begins and over time.