Why young workers need extra attention

By Jeff Salton on May 10th, 2018
  1. Risk Management
  2. Workplace Safety


While many businesses place an emphasis on training and induction for young workers, their legal duties to provide a safe workplace don’t stop there.

Two cases highlight that young workers need extra attention in the workplace to ensure they remain safe. That’s because young workers often lack the necessary experience to make judgment calls on undertaking tasks safely. They can also take unnecessary risks with their own safety in order not to look foolish in front of their peers and bosses and are sometimes reluctant to ask questions about safety for the same reasons.

The courts have shown that companies’ liabilities will be increased when, due to a lack of supervision, they have failed to implement a well-known and available safety mechanism.

In the case of WorkSafe v Nepean Builders Pty Ltd (2017), an apprentice employed by building company Nepean Builders Pty Ltd, was working at a building site in Somers, Victoria, on 10 March 2015. The apprentice was trimming off nails with a reciprocating saw when part of a nail struck him in the left eye.

At the time, the apprentice was not being supervised to ensure he was wearing the necessary protective eyewear while using the saw, despite such eye protection being available on site.

The young worker suffered a penetrating injury of the eye associated with a traumatic cataract, leaving him temporarily blind and requiring surgery.

The Court heard that there was a risk of serious injury to workers of being hit in the eye by flying objects while using the saw if not wearing eye protection. The company had failed to implement proper supervision and to ensure eye protection was being worn. Nepean Builders pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined $6,500 and ordered to pay costs of $3,000.

What you can learn

In situations involving apprentices or workers with limited experience, supervision is a necessary control to avoid risk.

In a separate case, WorkSafe v Taronga Arch Pty Ltd (2017), Taronga Arch Pty Ltd, a housing construction company was undertaking roofing works on a community hall on 23 March 2016. A first-year apprentice employed by the company was tasked with assisting with the installation of roofing materials at a height of 3 metres.

While on the roof, the worker stepped back and crashed through a skylight, falling into a lounge room occupied by a group of elderly people. The worker was taken by ambulance to hospital suffering from bruised ribs. His injuries could have been much worse. He could also easily have injured the elderly people if he had landed on them.

The judgment

The Court heard that Taronga failed to identify the risk of a fall from height through skylights prior to the commencement of work on the roof. There was a risk of serious injury or death as a result of a fall from height. Taronga pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine of $3,000 and ordered to pay costs of $3,000.

What you can learn

Companies must take extreme care prior to commencing work in order to identify all potential risks of harm, in particular, falls from height where a worker with limited experience is likely to be working.

Some businesses are unfamiliar with the added responsibilities that surround young workers – and that doesn’t mean only a worksite. If you employ young people – on a permanent, part-time or casual basis – you need to read through the chapter on Young Workers in the Health & Safety Handbook.

Written in plain English by the health and safety lawyers at Holding Redlich, the chapter has information that you might not have thought of that you should be implementing at your place of business.

Don’t delay. Order you copy of the Handbook now and protect your workers’ safety – and your business from potential prosecution should an incident occur.


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