Young Persons at work

Many organisations employ young persons and there is no reason why they should not continue to do so. However, employers do have an extra duty of care towards any young persons they employ in respect of their health and safety and these duties must be met.

The definition of ‘young person’ includes children but the two terms should not be confused.

Young Person         is someone below 18 years of age.

Child                          is someone below the minimum school leaving age. (Children must remain in compulsory education until the last Friday in June of the school year in which they reach the age of 16).

Young persons are considered to be at a greater risk of injury than adult workers due to their likely lack of maturity and limited work experience. They do not have a fully developed musculoskeletal structure but it also a fact that the older we get the more able and willing we are to consider potential risks and act accordingly.

A young person risk assessment should be carried out for all young persons’ examining the specific risks that may be faced.

Factors that must be taken into account include:

  • The inexperience and immaturity of a young person as this may result in a lack of risk awareness.
  • The layout of the workplace.
  • The workstation set-up.
  • Work equipment, machinery and any PPE the young person may use.
  • The work tasks in which the young person will be involved.
  • The operational processes and pace of work.
  • What health and safety training and supervision is needed.

Additional protective measures are likely to be required for young persons because of their physiological capabilities. For example, this may take the form of task modification to reduce the demands of a job or providing customised PPE.

If the level of risk remains too high, the assessment findings may recommend that young persons are prohibited from carrying out certain tasks.

Task restrictions

There are statutory restrictions placed on specified work activities which young persons must not undertake. These include:

  • Work which is beyond their physical or psychological capability.
  • Exposure to biological or chemical agents which could have a chronic effect on health (e.g. substances which are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic etc.).
  • Exposure to extremes of temperature (hot and cold).
  • Exposure to levels of noise or vibration which could be hazardous to health.
  • Exposure to harmful radiation.
  • Work in confined spaces.
  • Extensive manual handling (as determined by risk assessment).

Line Managers must identify any additional work activities in their areas which will need to be added to the list of restricted tasks. Essentially this should include any tasks which could place a young person at risk of injury due to their immaturity and lack of experience and/or training.

Working Hours

There are clear stipulations in relation to the hours that young persons are permitted to work and the rest breaks that they are required to take.

Young persons must:

  • Work no more than a maximum 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week.
  • Take a rest break of at least 30 minutes after 4.5 hours worked.
  • Have a rest period of 12 consecutive hours in-between each shift.
  • Have a rest period of not less than 48 hours in each week.

In addition, young persons must only undertake night work if they have access to a free assessment of their health and capabilities beforehand and thereafter at regular intervals.   The “restricted periods” for such work are 10pm to 6am or 11pm to 7am.