Safety for young workers and generations to come

Last month’s World Safety Day focused on safety for young workers and generations to come. Young workers and apprentices make up a substantial proportion of the construction and trade contractor industry workforce. The younger generation of workers are unfamiliar with appropriate workplace behaviours, their inexperience and a lack of maturity brings a higher risk of workplace injury when working at height.

Four steps to creating a safer workplace for the younger generation

1.   Tailor staff induction programs

A working at height induction program should include an introduction to the risks and equip younger workers with examples of good practice and practical application.

The induction can be tailored to those with little or no experience, assuming minimal knowledge or exposure to working at height. Any gaps in the worker’s knowledge will be illuminated by a well put together induction program where their ability to work safely and overall competency is tested.

2.    Offer ongoing training

The requirements for working safely at height include industry standard training courses with refresher courses every three years.

As new tools or work place scenarios are introduced, more frequent training and on the job support may be required. A ‘tell me, show me, watch me’ approach can be effective. The young worker is:

  • given a clear explanation of the policies and procedures;
  • shown how to work safely at height;
  • able to demonstrate the task capably; and
  • be responsive to feedback on how they performed

3.    Provide the right tools and work environment

There are many jobs to be completed by trade apprentices on the roof, including roofing, air conditioning or solar panel installation and building site work.

Each unique situation requires a risk assessment and implementation of the right solution to secure the work site and enable work to be completed safely. Equally important is that the young workers have the right tools for the job.

Experienced contractors and supervisors can take the lead in suggesting work safe solutions and tools, explaining their choices.

 4.    Foster a positive workplace culture

A positive workplace culture that engages staff in working at height safely is essential to keep buildings and facilities safe environments.

It is the responsibility of the workplace or the employer to empower young workers to:

  • Be mindful of their own health and safety at work
  • Take care not to endanger the health and safety of co-workers
  • Comply with height safety policies and procedures
  • Identify safety risks and have the confidence to speak to a supervisor about concerns
  • Put what they learn during training into practice on the job

A positive workplace culture that embraces safety training for working at height will build awareness of associated risks and equip younger workers with the tools to stay safe.