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Children and young people

Children and young people

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What is a young person?

A young person is someone who is over the compulsory school age, but under the age of 18.

In England and Wales, a person is no longer of compulsory school age after the last Friday of June of the school year in which they turn 16.

In Scotland, pupils whose 16th birthday falls between 1 March and 30 September can't leave school before 31 May of that year. Pupils aged 16 on or between 1 October and the last day of February can't leave until the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.

In Northern Ireland, a person is no longer of compulsory school age after 30 June of the school year in which they turn 16.

You must carry out a risk assessment (The 5-step approach to risk assessments) before a young person starts work or work experience at your workplace.

What law applies?

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000

Recognising risks to young people

When carrying out your risk assessment, you must follow the Health and Safety Executive's 5-step approach. However, young people and children will be more vulnerable to risks in the workplace, so you should consider other factors that could affect them.

Look at your workplace from a young person or child's viewpoint. Ask yourself:

  • What dangers will they see?
  • As they may not be fully grown, will they find the workplace awkward and the tools too big?

In particular, look at:

  • How the workplace is laid out (particularly where they'll work)
  • What type of work equipment will be used and how it'll be used
  • How the work is organised
  • The need to provide health and safety training
  • The nature of any physical, biological and chemical agents they may be exposed to, for how long and to what extent
  • The risks from certain work hazards
  • Work they can't do because of their age

Work young people and children can't do

You may find that a significant risk remains despite your best efforts to take all reasonable steps to control it. If this is the case, you must not allow a young person or a child to carry out those activities that may involve risk.

You must also protect them from the risks of accidents or ill health that they're unlikely to recognise because they are inexperienced, haven't been trained or may not pay enough attention to safety.

Young people

A young person must not be allowed to do work that:

  • Can't be adapted to meet any physical or mental limitations they may have
  • Exposes them to radiation and substances that are toxic or cause cancer
  • Involves extreme heat, noise or vibration
  • Exposes them to compressed air
  • Involves working at a fast pace

However, they can do this work if:

  • It's necessary for their training;
  • It's properly supervised by a competent person; and
  • The risks are reduced to the lowest possible level.

Children below the minimum school leaving age

Children below the minimum school leaving age must not, under any circumstances, do work that involves the risks mentioned above for a young person.

In addition, they're not allowed to:

  • Sell or deliver alcohol
  • Deliver milk
  • Deliver fuel
  • Work in a kitchen, including: use or clean food slicers, mixers, food processors or potato chippers; clean, drain or use fat fryers; de-bone meat
  • Use chemicals including corrosive cleaning materials, e.g. oven and beer line cleaners
  • Collect or sort refuse, including use of waste compactors
  • Work in telephone sales
  • Work more than one metre above ground (on ladders)
  • Work in a cinema or nightclub
  • Work as an attendant at a fairground or an amusement arcade
  • Work as a nursing home personal care assistant

Children aged 13 and over (14 in Scotland, but local education authority bylaws are likely to allow children aged 13) are allowed to do the following:

  • Deliver newspapers
  • Shop work
  • Office work
  • Work in hairdressing salons
  • Wash cars by hand
  • Work in a cafe/restaurant cleaning tables (not in a kitchen)
  • Light work in riding stables
  • Domestic work in hotels
  • Light agricultural/garden work (not using machinery)

The number of hours a child can work are greatly restricted in term time and on Sundays.