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Safe and healthy young workers in the focus of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2018

Every year on 28 April, we mark an important awareness date: the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. The 2018 SafeDay puts the spotlight on the young generations. It gives rise to a global campaign to improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labour. The ILO estimates that 85 million children under 18 years old are doing work which poses a physical, psychosocial or moral danger to them.

Young people are amongst the most vulnerable groups in the workplace as they have limited life and work experience.

The insufficient physical and psychological maturity of youth as well as their lack of experience increases their vulnerability to work-related risks. In addition, young workers entering the employment for the first time may well do so in non-standard employment (which includes part-time work and temporary work), or in high risk sectors. They may also be working in the informal economy.

Young people are among those more likely to experience violence and harassment at work.

Young workers are over-represented in some jobs in the service sector where violence, abuse and harassment are more prevalent, such as the hotel and restaurant sector or in call-centres, often in seasonal or student jobs. Young workers may benefit from training to recognise and deal with aggressive or violent customers or difficult and confrontational situations if they work in such sectors.

Young women may be particularly at risk. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) study from 2014 on violence against women:

  • up to 55% of women in the EU have been sexually harassed,
  • 32% of all victims in the EU said the perpetrator was a boss, colleague or customer;
  • 75% of women in qualified professions or top management jobs have been sexually harassed, as have 
  • 61% of women employed in the services sector.

Protection of young people at work is on top of the EU agenda.

EU Directives on health and safety at work are transposed into all Member States to protect all workers. The “framework” Directive 89/391/EEC sets out the process, requiring the employer to assess the hazards and risks in the workplace and then put in place prevention measures.  This includes protecting the worker from psychosocial risk factors such as violence and work-related stress as well as from physical, chemical, and biological risks. 

The EU Directive on the protection of young people at work stipulates that Member States must prohibit the employment of children (i.e. those under the age of 15 or still in full-time compulsory education). The minimum age of admission to employment may not be lower than the minimum school-leaving age.

The Directive goes on to provide further requirements for the protection of the health and safety of young workers. It specifies types of employment which must not be carried out by young people and contains provisions on working hours, night work, rest periods, annual leave and rest breaks.

Promoting sustainable work and healthy ageing has to be triggered from the start of the working life, meaning providing good working conditions for workers of all ages and starting when they are young.

The protection of young people is also included in the European Pillar of Social Rights, in its first chapter: Equal opportunities and access to the labour market.

Planning for the future – mainstreaming occupational safety and health into education to build the next generations of safe and healthy workers.

Given that young people entering work for the first time are known to be vulnerable, it makes sense that children are equipped with the knowledge and skills to prepare them for the world of work. This process is termed “mainstreaming” or integrating occupational safety and health into education, and can start in primary education, continuing all the way through to tertiary and vocational education.

The whole-school approach is one such approach that combines risk education and school safety and health management. Teachers should work together with pupils to make the school a safe and healthy place. This helps pupils to more effectively develop their knowledge of hazard identification and risk control while developing their skills regarding responsibility and participation. The European Network for Education and Training in Occupational Safety and Health (ENETOSH) has many examples of such interventions. 

Teaching work safety and health can be done with a smile. Have you met Napo?

Napo is an award-winning film star and the main ambassador of EU-OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Campaigns

The hero in a memorable series of animated films, he shows real life problems and solutions in the world of work. 

The films bring educational value and stimulate debate on specific aspects of safety and health at work. 

To support the mainstreaming approach, Napo stars in the free online OSH education toolkits for teachers from EU OSHA that provide educators with inspiration, support and practical guidance on incorporating prevention messages into the existing curriculum.

If you are keen to find out more, visit our web sections:

Young people and safety and health at work and Mainstreaming OSH into education