We have in the past discussed the vulnerability of young workers in the construction industry and the importance that they are appropriately trained and supervised. Now the SA unions and parents of teenage workers are concerned about the exploitation of teenage workers who are simply working over the school holidays to make some extra pocket money.
This is of particular concern in SA and Tasmania because these states lack the child labour laws that are present in other states which stop these young people from being exploited by their employers because of their naivety and inexperience.
In addition there are concerns that young workers are more easily bullied and tend to keep quiet about the bullying.
The Young Workers Legal Service in South Australia is inundated every year will calls from parents concerned about these youth employment issues.
Some of the issues include bullying, sexual harassment, underpayment of wages and unfair dismissal. There are now calls for specific laws to be developed for workers who are under 18.
When it comes to the construction industry, most of the concern lies around the fact that young workers in this industry aren’t given the training and supervision that they need to work safely while engaging in such high-risk work.
Quite often young workers will be asked to complete tasks which they have not be specifically trained to undertake and because of their shyness and fear to ask, they attempt to undertake the task and end up being injured and in some circumstances even killed.
Firstly before hiring young people to work on a construction site, it is vital to ensure that they have completed general construction industry safety training. This training known as The White Card course will familiarise these young workers with the hazards that lie on construction sites so that they will be better equipped to handle the risks associated with these hazards if and when they come across them on site.
Training is the foundation upon which employers can build an attitude of safety among workers. Any worker who enters into the construction industry must first undergo safety training, according to Australian legislation including teenage workers who are working casually on site.
More than just fulfilling a mandatory legal requirement, safety induction training also lays the foundation of safety knowledge which workers will utilise every time they step onto a construction site.
When a young worker steps onto a construction site, chances are they are not familiar with hazards associated with the machinery, equipment, general environment, work processes etc. which makes them vulnerable to injury and their inexperience could place others on site at risk as well.
In addition to ensuring that each young worker is in possession of a White Card, employers must also ensure that these young people receive additional site specific training as well as additional training relating to the tasks they are given. No matter how much training these young workers are given, it is still important to ensure that they are being adequately supervised.