Young People and Students

The nature of the University’s work and its buildings means that extra care needs to be taken over the health and safety of young people and children, who may be particularly vulnerable because of their relative lack of experience and maturity. They require special consideration when carrying out risk assessments, and will require more training and supervision than more experienced workers.


This section reiterates the importance of these fundamental elements in managing health and safety risks to young people, who may be employed, on work experience, or may be present as students e.g. as undergraduates or on educational visits.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999 require risk assessments to be carried out, taking particular note of vulnerable or inexperienced groups of individuals. Young people are specifically cited as an example. Young people include employees and students less than 18 years old, and children (those under the minimum school leaving age, MSLA, usually 16 (The minimum school leaving age is the last Friday in June of the year in which the individual is 16).

The University prohibits the employment of young people under the MSLA except on work experience schemes approved by a local authority or the governing body of an independent school. While on work experience placements (which generally take place in Years 10 and 11) children have the temporary legal status and rights of employees.

Departments employing young people should consult the HSE’s publication, ‘The Right Start’.

The HSE also publishes specific advice on the health and safety of children and young people in catering.

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Before young people start work a written risk assessment must be carried out, taking into account the following factors:

  1. Fit-out and layout of the workplace and the workstation

  2. Form, range and use of work equipment and the way in which it is handled
  3. Organisation of the work, processes, or activities that the young person will undertake. 

    Young people may be less skilled in handling techniques or in pacing their work according to their capability. The risk assessment should therefore take account of their physique, general health, age, and previous experience, ensuring that the pace of such work allows sufficient recovery time.

  4. Nature, degree and duration of exposure to physical, biological and chemical agents.

    a) Young people are generally at no greater risk from physical agents than adults, and compliance with relevant University policies in relation to noise (S1/06), and non–ionising radiation (S2/09), for example, will satisfy the legislative requirements for young people.

    b) In the case of exposure to ionising radiation the health risks may be increased slightly for young people. It is University policy that school-age children under 16 are prohibited from work with ionising radiation. Young people aged 16-18 may only work with ionising radiation if it is necessary for their training and if the risk of exposure has been properly assessed. Procedures must be designed to keep exposure to as low a level as reasonably practicable and by ensuring that they only enter controlled radiation areas in accordance with documented procedures, and under stringent supervision. The statutory annual dose limit for a young worker is less than for an adult, and these annual dose limits must not be exceeded. Further information relating to work with ionising radiation may be found in University Policy Statement (UPS) S1/12.

    c) Young workers are no more likely to contract infections from biological agents than adult workers, although, like adults, they may be at greater risk if they suffer from any other diseases, if they are immuno-compromised, or are taking medication, for example. However, departments are reminded of the University’s policy on Biorisk Management, S5/09, and the prohibition on children under 16 entering containment laboratories, except in relation to organised educational activities (e.g. work experience placements or school visits) and then only after appropriate risk assessments have been carried out. The majority of animal facilities also come within the scope of the policy.

    d) There is no enhanced risk to young workers from exposure to hazardous substances, although they may lack awareness of the hazards and risks they may encounter in their work, and exhibit less care or attention in handling or disposing of such materials.

  5. Inexperience, lack of awareness of risk, attitude and immaturity

    There may be differences in the psychological make-up of individual young workers, which are generally a reflection of their background, experience, personality and training. Assumptions must not be made about a young worker’s abilities to cope with different work situations, some of which may be stressful for a new and inexperienced worker. Lack of experience or training may make them less able to identify potentially risky situations or equip them with the means of dealing with them appropriately. Young workers must be supervised closely until their ability to cope and make sound decisions has been proven.

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