Young people and safety at work

A new report has shown that 15 per cent of young Australians (aged 12 to 24 years) are hospitalised for injuries sustained while at work. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report has shown that 12 per cent of these hospitalisations involved young people working for an income, while the other 3 per cent were engaged in work not for income.

The report noted that 7 per cent of young people aged between 15 and 17 years were hospitalised from injuries sustained while working and 19 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds. A higher proportion of males were hospitalised compared to females.

Occupational health and safety is an issue not just for factories and building sites but for every industry. Different sectors have different hazards and fast food and retail is no different. Hot and sharp hazards in fast food kitchens are common as are heavy items in retail. Workplace bullying is also a problem.

The fast food and retail sectors provide employment to thousands of young people. Young workers are generally injured at higher rates than adults. This is often because of a lack of experience or a lack of proper training or supervision.

Many young workers are not aware that they are entitled to compensation if they are injured. This includes the payment of medical costs and paid time off work. All workers are entitled to compensation; this includes full time, part time and casual workers.


It is not just, cuts and burns or sprains and strains that affect workers in fast food and retail. The main safety issue that is of great concern to UNITE is that of workplace bullying and harassment.

It is estimated that about 25% of young workers are bullied at work. Being bullied does not just mean being yelled at but it can include being pressured to work overtime or being forced to work through rest breaks.

Disgustingly about 20% of young workers have also experienced sexual harassment at work. This is totally unacceptable and there are laws in place that protect you from this discrimination in the workplace. If you are being bullied or harassed at work contact UNITE. You don’t have to put up with this treatment. We can advise you about how to deal with these issues.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, your boss has a general duty to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to your health and safety. This means it is your bosses’ responsibility to make sure you are safe at work – not yours!

You also have the right to refuse to work if you think it is unsafe. It is illegal to be sacked for refusing to do unsafe work. This can include working off ladders at dangerous heights or carrying hot oil in unsafe containers. If an object is too heavy make sure you get help to lift it.

If you are injured at work remember you must –

1. Report the injury. Notify your boss or OH&S rep. as soon as it happens

2. Go to YOUR OWN doctor and get a medical certificate

3. Fill in a Work Cover claim form and give it to your boss ASAP

4. If there are any problems contact UNITE ASAP for advice.

UNITE can provide you with training about Occupational Health & Safety issues. We are also looking for members to become OH&S representatives in their workplaces. If you want to become an OH&S rep, want training about particular issues or just need to ask a question about an issue at work contact UNITE on 93281555.


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