Work hurts young people the most

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released in report in late December titled Work-Related Injuries. It confirmed what UNITE already knew which was that young workers suffer the highest rates of work-related injuries and illness.

For every 1000 workers aged 15 to 19 years, 78 were hurt or fell ill as a result of their employment activities. Men aged 20 to 24 had the highest rate of work-related injury or illness at close to 10 per cent and the frequency was generally higher for men than women. The report also states that 43 per cent of workers injured had received no occupational health and safety training about the risks associated with their work.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing were the most dangerous industries for workers of all age groups but young workers were mainly injured in the retail and fast food industries.

Almost half of the 65,500 workers aged between 15 and 19 who suffered work-related illness or injury worked in retail, with a further 12 per cent working in accommodation or cafes and restaurants. More than one in three of the young people hurt sustained a cut or open wound, while one in five suffered sprains or strains.

Forty two per cent of people hurt at work did not apply for workers’ compensation. Of those who did not apply for workers’ compensation, 17 per cent thought they were not covered or eligible to workers’ compensation or they were just not aware it existed. Seven per cent said making an application would have a negative impact on current or future employment. UNITE suggests that many of these workers would have also been young.

The report did not really study the main occupational health and safety issue for young people, bullying and harassment, but it did make it clear that there is a direct correlation between being young and inexperienced in the workplace and getting hurt at work.

If you work in fast food or retail and have a concern about health and safety in your workplace contact UNITE today. Our organizers can provide you with advice and training about your rights.

Being young does not mean you have to do all the dangerous jobs at work. UNITE supports the right of every worker to come home in the same healthy state in which they left.