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Norwich Union advises on giving young workers a safe start in work

06 May 2008

As part of Norwich Union’s Simply Safety campaign, a downloadable guide is available that advises on how to give young people a safe and productive start in the working environment.

Norwich Union is urging employers to be aware of their responsibilities when taking on any young people in the workplace. “Accidents are the greatest single threat to the life of children and young people. A combined lack of experience and maturity can provide a lethal combination – especially in the workplace," says Phil Grace liability risk manager for Norwich Union.

Although children under 13 are prohibited from any form of work, young people are often brought into the workplace across a range of trades and industries. Young people are defined as those over the minimum school leaving age of 16, but not yet 18.

Grace warns that more specific regulations apply for this category, including those on vocational training and work experience placements. “The Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997 require employers to undertake particular assessments of the risks affecting the health and safety of employees under 18 before the young person starts work. On completion, the risks and control measures must be brought to the attention of the young person, his/her parents, or those having parental responsibility.”

The Regulations prohibit the employment of young people where risk assessment identifies harmful exposure to toxic substances, radiation, extreme cold or heat, vibration, noise or work which is beyond their physical capacity.

Grace says: “There are also specific prohibitions on the employment of young persons in certain trades or the use of particular plant and machinery, so it is wise to seek guidance before taking on a young person – more information can be obtained from the HSE website.”

However, Grace says that employers should take into account a third category – those aged 18-21. This group, which is relatively new to work, will also need extra support and their work should be subject to special risk assessments. “Young people may have a reduced perception of danger, exposing them to greater risk, therefore it may be necessary to provide greater controls where they are working. A risk assessment could indicate a need for additional supervision, more detailed instructions for carrying out a task or the provision of extra training.

“In one instance, an 18 year old fork lift truck driver attempted a 180 degree turn at speed; the truck overturned and the driver died from a fractured skull. All employees were permitted to drive the trucks but the deceased had received no training. This may have been avoided if additional training and supervision had been provided.”

Grace concludes: “Good safety management is good for business and demonstrates an efficiently run organisation. Measures to keep young people safe will also help to protect all employees.”

A risk assessment training course is currently available from Norwich Union Risk Services. Online training courses addressing the basics of health and safety risk assessment will be available soon
Downloadable guide available from

Other information: ROSPA -

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