WorkCover NSW: Businesses urged to keep young workers safe

WorkCover NSW has issued a reminder to businesses to pay extra attention to the needs of young workers who may be starting their first job in the new year.
General Manager of WorkCover's Work Health and Safety Division John Watson said many young people and school leavers may underestimate the importance of safety in the workplace.

"With thousands of young people entering the workforce for the first time, it is essential for everyone in the workplace to step up and take special care to alert young workers to potential safety hazards," Mr Watson said.

"Workers aged under 25 may be more vulnerable to workplace safety risks because of their youth and inexperience or reluctance to speak up about safety concerns," he said.

"Around 12 per cent of all employment injuries and occupational diseases occur among the State's 572,000 young workers.

"During 2009-10 almost 5,000 compensation claims were lodged by young workers with the most common injuries being muscular stress while lifting, carrying or putting down objects.

"Employers should ensure that they have appropriate systems in place to ensure that all workers, including those new to a job or industry, are provided with sufficient training and support to undertake their work safely," Mr Watson said.

22-year-old Sydney-based mechanic James (surname withheld) didn't think much about being injured on the job until he sustained a hernia at work while repairing lawnmowers.

"I didn't think about the impact an injury has - it affects both your social life and family life," James said.

"I was unable to play my usual sport and I couldn't go clubbing for a while and I had to stay inside for some time which was incredibly frustrating.

"Before the injury my parents and employer had told me to be careful about how I did things, but an injury was something I just didn't think would happen to me," he said.

Since the injury James is more careful and now speaks up straight away if he has any safety concerns.

"I am being quite cautious and ask for help if I need it. I am no longer shy about speaking out about workplace hazards. I now put safety first, ahead of other considerations," he said.

James is encouraging other young workers to raise safety issues at work, even if they think that by doing so it may upset someone.

"It's important to take precautions and not take safe work practices for granted. The last thing anyone wants is for their life to be affected by an injury," he said.
Mr Watson said there are simple things employers and workers can do to help prevent injuries:

Employers, in consultation with their workers should:
- provide adequate training and supervision in all tasks
- provide a comprehensive induction
- identify safety risks and put in place procedures to reduce and control the risks
- encourage open communication about safety issues.

Young workers also have a responsibility to conduct their work safely and should:
- follow all safety procedures and ask questions if uncertain
- report any risks and hazards to a supervisor or colleague
- use safety equipment and protective clothing if needed
- do not fool around with machinery
- find out how to report an injury

"I urge all employers and workers returning to work after the holiday period to make workplace safety a priority throughout the year and to take advantage of WorkCover advisory services and resources," Mr Watson said.

For workplace safety information or resources call 1310 50 or visit www