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Protecting Young Employees


Floristry has always welcomed young people into the industry, whether as employees, apprentices or work experience students.


If you’re an employer or work colleague of a young person (under 18 years old), it's important to be aware that young workers are vulnerable to specific workplace risks, linked to their inexperience and relative immaturity.


The Health & Safety Executive (www.hse.gov.uk) has recently issued some useful guidance on protecting young people at work.


Risks to Young People

Young people are likely to be new to the workplace and so are at greater risk of injury in the first six months of a job, as they may be less aware of risks. Young people are regarded as vulnerable as they may:

  • lack experience or maturity

  • not have reached physical maturity and lack strength

  • be eager to impress or please people they work with

  • be unaware of how to raise concerns.

Young people need clear and sufficient instruction, training and supervision so that they understand the importance of health and safety and can work without putting themselves and others at risk. They may well need more supervision than adults.


Employing a Young Person for the First Time

As an employer, you should already be managing health and safety for all of your employees, but you should assess any additional factors if you employ a young person, such as a health condition which may be affected by the work or the work environment. If you are employing a young person for the first time, or employing one with particular needs, you should review your risk assessment before they start. You do not need to do a separate risk assessment for work experience students, as long as your existing assessment already considers the specific factors for young people.


Greatest Risks to Young People

For many young people the workplace will be a new environment and they will be unfamiliar with 'obvious' risks and the behaviour expected of them. They may lack experience or maturity. Make sure they understand what is expected of them, check they understand and are able to remember and follow instructions. They may not have reached physical maturity and be more at risk if their muscle strength is not fully developed. They may be less skilled in handling techniques or in pacing work according to their ability. When assessing a young person's physical capability, you could simply ask yourself if a still developing young person could lift the weights older, more experienced workers can. They may be eager to impress or please people they work with, so you should supervise them effectively and make sure they understand any training and instruction.


Levels of Risk

Assess the level of risk for the various tasks to be undertaken by the young person and manage these accordingly. Low-risk environments, such as the shop floor, are different to less familiar environments such as workrooms, storerooms and chillers where young workers are exposed to risks such as sharp tools and equipment and extremes of temperature.


If you have fewer than 5 employees, you do not need to do a written risk assessment. If a work experience student increases your staff to 5 you do not need to do a written risk assessment for this temporary period. What you cover in your risk assessment depends on the level of risk. Review your risk assessment before they start if you:

  • do not currently employ a young person

  • have not employed a young person in the last few years

  • are taking on a work experience student for the first time

  • are taking on a work experience student with particular needs.

Training and Supervision

Many young people are likely to be new to the workplace and facing unfamiliar risks from the job and their surroundings. You should give them clear and sufficient instruction, training and supervision so they can work without putting themselves and other people at risk.


Consider how much training they need – it should be proportionate to the risk. For a student on a short-term work experience placement, tailor induction and training to the tasks they are going to do. Check they have understood the instruction and training, including:

  • hazards and risks in the workplace

  • health and safety precautions in place.

Young people are likely to need more supervision than adults. Good supervision will help you get a clear idea of their capabilities and their progress in the job. It will also help you monitor the effectiveness of their training. They may need additional support to allow them to carry out their work without putting themselves and others at risk, such as tailored training or closer supervision.



Work experience

Work experience and work-based learning will be the first time most young people experience the world of work. Good preparation and organisation of placements is essential if these opportunities are to be helpful and safe introductions to work. As an employer taking on a young person for work experience, you have the main responsibility for their health and safety. Always check they know how to raise health and safety concerns. Under health and safety law, work experience students are your employees, like any other young person you employ.


Insurance

Your existing employers' liability insurance policy will cover work placements provided your insurer is a member of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), or Lloyds, so there is no need for you to get any additional employer's liability insurance if you take on work experience students. If you don’t currently require employers' liability insurance and are going to take on a work placement, discuss the situation with your insurer to check you have adequate insurance cover.


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