All workers have the right to just and favourable conditions of work, and no worker should be exposed to danger or be pressured into performing unsuitable tasks.
A number of factors, including inexperience, inadequate supervision, lack of awareness around rights, limited or no training, undertaking tasks designed for adults, and a desperation to stay employed, mean that young workers are more likely to suffer injury or illness as a result of experiencing workloads or performing tasks in unsuitable environments. A “young” worker refers to a person between the ages of 15 and 24, a demographic that represents more than 15 percent of the global labour force.
Competitive employment markets and socioeconomic factors can create an environment where young and student workers may feel pressured to resort to roles where they are forced to work long hours, in poor conditions or with equipment designed for adults. While this increases their risk of injury or illness, fear of being perceived as inadequate or losing their job means young workers are often less likely to raise potential occupational health and safety concerns.
It is imperative for businesses to ensure that young and student workers are given adequate training and knowledge around their rights as workers as well as occupational health and safety standards. Further, businesses should ensure that they provide these workers with adequate supervision. Workplaces should be aware that student workers may be fatigued if they are combining study and work, which may further impact their workplace health and safety. Businesses should incorporate grievance mechanisms within their workplaces so that young or student workers feel comfortable voicing concerns about their working conditions.