It’s a tragic fact that young workers are statistically more likely to be injured at work than those who have been on the job for years. Indeed, 16-19-year-olds suffer a 40% greater incidence of injury at work than their older colleagues.

For apprentices, those on work experience, or people new to work at your builders’ merchant, the risk of injury is very real. Research also indicates that during the first month of employment workers are four times more likely to have an accident.

As the government targets to achieve three million apprentices by 2020, managers of builders merchants will need to be aware of their increased duty of care to young workers.

What are the risks?

Clearly, youngsters lack experience. They are less aware of workplace risks and their physical and psychological immaturity can make them more vulnerable than older colleagues. They are more prone to work beyond their ability, lack judgment or act over-enthusiastically. Poor training, information or instruction and inadequate supervision puts them at greater risk. They may also not be aware of their rights and not have the confidence to speak out.

Merchant’s  Responsibilities

Employers are responsible for protecting the safety and health of workers and they should pay particular attention to young workers. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations stipulates that a young person (those under 18 years old) must not be employed unless employers have made or reviewed a Health & Safety risk assessment. By law, they must not work beyond their physical or mental ability or be exposed to:

  • toxic or cancer-causing substances

  • radiation

  • extreme heat, noise or vibration

  • risks they are unlikely to recognise.

Top Practical Tips

  • If you are employing a young person for the first time, or one with specific needs, you will need to review your risk assessments to assess whether you need to do anything extra before the young person joins your team.

  • Higher risk activities will need more careful attention.

  • Ensure they receive relevant induction training tailored to their tasks, preferably on their first day. This training should include information on the relevant hazards, risks and safety precautions. Depending on their role, fire safety awareness, manual handling and workplace transport e-learning training via Southalls, Safety Cloud may be appropriate initial training for new merchant staff.

  • Ensure young workers are adequately supervised. Good supervision will help to give management a clear idea of the young person’s capabilities, progress in the job and monitor the effectiveness of their training.

Ian Hatherly, Operations Director at Southalls said,  “Young workers who are likely to be new to the merchant workplace need clear and sufficient instruction, training and supervision to enable them to work without putting themselves and other people at risk. Putting thought into your employment of young people from the start can protect you from injury claims further down the line.”