New and young workers – frequently asked questions

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This page contains frequently asked questions relating to new and young workers.

At what age are workers considered ‘young workers’?

Young workers are those under the age of 18 years, for example school leavers, apprentices and trainees.

What are new and young workers’ rights when they start working?

Like all other employees, new and young workers have the right to a safe workplace and to not be injured or harmed at work.  The employer has a ‘duty of care’ to provide and maintain a safe working environment as far as practicable. As part of their duty of care, the employer must provide new and young workers with safe work procedures and information, instruction, training and supervision so they are able to work safely.

New and young workers also have rights in relation to their pay and conditions.

What are new and young workers’ responsibilities for safety and health at work?

New and young workers have a responsibility to work safely.  You can do this by: 

  • following all reasonable instructions for doing the job;
  • following workplace procedures;
  • not putting yourself or your co-workers at risk;
  • wearing personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE) as required; and
  • reporting unsafe situations and injuries to your supervisor, employer and/or a safety and health representative (if there is one).

Young workers should ask if they are not sure about anything at work.

Why do young workers need special consideration?

Children and young people’s skills, abilities and experience need to be considered when giving them tasks. There are special risk factors to consider when managing their safety. In particular, young people: 

  • may not be able to make mature decisions about how to work safely;
  • may leap into situations before thinking about their own safety and health and that of others;
  • may not be capable of taking on the same work as adults in the workplace;
  • may be keen to work but need more experience and training before they can do so safely on their own;
  • can be playful and adventurous at times when there is a need for great care; and
  • may be led into dangerous situations in workplaces by their curiosity, even when they have been warned.

What should an induction for a new worker include?

Part of the employer’s 'duty of care' includes providing instruction, training and supervision so workers are able to work safely. This must include a job specific induction that provides information and training on:

  • the hazards associated with each task and the safety measures in place;
  • safe work procedures for each task, for example safe work procedures for manual tasks and working with hazardous substances;
  • safe use of equipment;
  • where required, chemical safety including the safe use and storage of substances, material safety data sheets (MSDS), personal protective clothing and equipment (PPE), first aid and location of safety showers and eye baths;
  • safe movement around the workplace, such as areas where pedestrians are restricted as there is movement of vehicles; and
  • where required, the use, care and maintenance of PPE.

A general induction to the general workplace safety and health arrangements must be provided and include information and training on:

WorkSafe provides a range of checklists that can be used for inductions. These include an induction checklist for new and young workers and checklists for contract workers and work experience students.

These checklists may be adapted to include relevant workplace issues. For example, an induction for an employee of a warehouse or retail workplace may need a greater level of induction on manual tasks, as many injuries can arise with this type of work.

What are the safety requirements for children helping in a family business where they are not paid?

Section 21 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (OSH Act) requires that an employer and self-employed person must ensure the safety and health of other people (ie non-employees) at the workplace. This means that the safety and health of children who are at family business, from time to time, must be ensured.

Where there are young family members at a workplace, conduct a hazard identification and risk assessment and implement control measures where required, taking into account the young person’s level of competence. 

Steps must be taken to ensure that young people are not exposed to hazards. For example, if they are in the kitchen area, it must be ensured they are not exposed to hazards such as hot water, hot oil and sharp knives.

Refer to WorkSafe’s information on children at the workplace for guidance on hazard identification and risk assessment.

What are the requirements in relation to children as visitors at a workplace?

As outlined above, section 21 of the OSH Act requires that an employer and self-employed person must ensure the safety and health of other people (ie non-employees) at the workplace.

Where there will be young people visiting a workplace, conduct a hazard identification and risk assessment and implement control measures where required. This needs to take into account various situations that could arise. For example, children may be part of the work activity (customers) or visit or live at the workplace, such as on farms.

Refer to WorkSafe’s information on children at the workplace for guidance on hazard identification and risk assessment.

What are the requirements in relation to work experience students?

As outlined above, section 21 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (OSH Act) requires that an employer and self-employed person must ensure the safety and health of other people (ie non-employees) at the workplace. This means that the safety and health of work experience students must be ensured under the OSH Act.

Where there are workplace experience students, conduct a hazard identification and risk assessment and implement control measures where required, taking into account the young person’s level of competence. 

As for other employees, work experience students need to be provided with adequate information, instruction and training in order to work safely. They will usually require a greater level of supervision given their lack of experience with working. See the WorkSafe work experience checklist for issues that need to be addressed by the workplace.

Where work experience students or their parents have concerns about the safety and health at the workplace, they should raise them with the employer and the school contact person for the placement.

What kind of equipment can a young person use?

Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for equipment as some may warn against young people using them. If this is the case, follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

If there is no warning in the manufacturer's instructions, then conduct a hazard identification and risk assessment and implement control measures where required.

The employer must ensure the young worker has been trained, is competent and able to work safely before they use the equipment. In addition, an adequate level of supervision must be provided to ensure they are able to work safely.

How old do you need to be to operate a forklift?

To operate a forklift at a workplace, a person must be over 18 years of age and hold a current high risk work licence. This applies to:

  • forklift trucks ie powered industrial truck equipped with a mast and an elevating load carriage to which is attached a pair of fork arms or other attachment.  This type of forklift is generally referred to as a counter-balance forklift; and
  • order picking forklift truck ie a powered industrial truck of a type where the operator's control arrangement is incorporated with the load carriage/lifting, and elevates with it.

What can a new or young worker do about workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying behaviour is not acceptable at any workplace. The first step, if you are experiencing workplace bullying, is to talk about it with your supervisor, human resources manager or employer. The workplace should have policies and procedures in place to deal with workplace bullying and related matters, such as an anti-bullying policy or procedure, a grievance procedure or an issue resolution procedure.

When you make a complaint to your employer about workplace bullying, your employer must respond by investigating the complaint, working out what action to take and letting the person what was decided.

Where you have not been able to resolve a bullying issue at the workplace, you can lodge an enquiry with WorkSafe. To be able to investigate a matter, the WorkSafe inspector will ask for information including the types of bullying behaviour and the times when it occurred.

For more information on workplace bullying and how it should be prevented and dealt with, see WorkSafe’s information on workplace bullying.

What can you do if you are worried about safety and health at work?

A wide range of issues can be safety and health concerns that need to be addressed, such as slippery floors, lifting heavy loads, faulty or unguarded machinery and equipment, chemicals and workplace bullying or violence.

If you are concerned about your own or your co-workers’ safety and health:

  • talk to your supervisor, employer and/or safety and health representative (if there is one) – do this straight away before a small problem gets more serious and causes an injury or harm;
  • talk to one of your more experienced co-workers;
  • raise your concerns with your safety and health committee or safety and health manager if you have them;
  • try to resolve the issue through your workplace’s issue resolution procedure;
  • contact WorkSafe­;
  • if you work through a group training organisation or labour hire agency, report your concerns to them, as well; and/or
  • if you are a work experience or structured workplace learning student, speak to your school contact person or trainer about your concerns.

Are there educational tools that can help new or young people learn about safety and health?

WorkSafe provides SmartMove, a comprehensive workplace safety and health educational resource for senior high school students and new and young workers entering the workforce on a work placement, for work experience, or as a school-based trainee/apprentice.

Further information

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