Young people and safety and health at work

Young people and OSH. Young worker and older working talking

Statistics show that 18- to 24-year-olds are more likely to have a serious accident at work than older adults. They may be exposed to poor working conditions leading to the development of occupational illnesses while still young or later in life.

New to the workplace, young people may lack experience and often lack both physical and psychological maturity. They may not take seriously enough the risks that they face. Other factors that put young people at greater risk include:

  • Insufficient skills and training
  • Not being aware of their rights and their employer’s duties
  • Not having the confidence to speak out
  • Employers not recognising the additional protection that young workers need

EU-OSHA produces statisticsmonitors risks to young people and supports the sharing of good practices to protect them in the workplace.

Employers’ rights and responsibilities

It is the employer’s responsibility to protect the safety and health of workers and they should pay particular attention to young workers. They must carry out a risk assessment before a young person starts work and put in place measures to protect them.

Young workers should be given appropriate work and provided with adequate training and supervision. Employers should promote a strong safety culture and involve young workers in safety matters. Special rules apply to young workers under the age of 18.

Council Directive 94/33/EC sets out the legal obligations for employers. These obligations are set out in regulations of each Member State. National safety and health organisations and trade unions are good sources of advice.

Read the factsheet for employers.

Young workers’ rights and responsibilities

Young people have the right to ask questions, raise concerns and refuse to do work that is not safe.

At the same time, they have responsibilities to follow OSH policies and look after their own and colleagues’ safety.

If you are a young worker and you have a problem, the most important thing is to tell someone. Talk to your boss if you can. If you can’t, talk to your safety representative, occupational health staff or a parent, guardian or trusted colleague. National safety and health organisations and trade unions are good sources of advice.

  • Ask if you are unsure about anything
  • Know your rights and where to get help
  • Understand the risks and what to do in an emergency
  • Don’t undertake tasks without training — and follow procedures

Read the factsheet for young workers.

Help for educators and for parents

Educators have an important role to play. If they can develop a good attitude to and understanding of risk prevention in young people from an early age, they will help to keep them safe for life.

Using the ever-popular Napo character, EU-OSHA has devised a series of occupational safety and health education toolkits for teachers, aimed at introducing health and safety topics to primary school children in an educational, yet fun and imaginative way using the Napo clips and creative activities.

Educators involved in organising vocational training or work experience placements should check safety and health arrangements with their employers.

Find out more about integrating safety and health into education.

Parents can support young people by making sure that they understand their rights and responsibilities. Parents can also help by talking to them about work and college and their safety and health.

Read the factsheet for parents.