Regulators issue reminders about child safety in the workplace

SafeWork NSW recently issued a reminder to employers about the dangers of taking children to workplaces such as construction sites, following an incident in which a teenage boy was seriously injured while attending a worksite in December.

On 22 December, a 13-year-old boy attended a construction site with an adult, and the boy subsequently fell from scaffolding and sustained a serious head injury which required surgery.

While many parents across the state are back at work in the new year and may have to take their children to work with them, SafeWork NSW said they must ensure children are only taken to suitable workplaces and their movements are always monitored.

People in high-risk workplaces like construction need to be trained and competent, and if SafeWork inspectors find untrained, unlicenced and incompetent people on site, which can include children, the regulator said this could result in the issue of fines or other notices.

If parents are planning for their child to take part in work on a construction site, they are reminded to ensure their child has a white card, is properly supervised and has been provided with adequate training. The minimum age to apply for a white card is 14.

“For a child, workplaces are exciting places, but they can also be extremely dangerous,” said head of SafeWork NSW Trent Curtin.

“We are reminding businesses and parents they have obligations to supervise children especially around machinery, hazardous chemicals and other risks on site which may not be obvious.

“There needs to be protections in place to look after not just kids on school holidays, but all visitors to the workplace, each and every day of the year.

“Simple safety prevention, like locking away chemicals and tools, putting in place falls protection, or removing the keys from machinery and vehicles when they are not in use are just a few ways to create a safer place for everyone.”

Safe Work Australia statistics indicate that 11 children die in work-related incidents each year on average, and some 160 children died in work-related incidents over the period 2003-2016.

Of those children who die in work-related accidents, 46 per cent were aged 0-5 years, 31 per cent were aged 5-9 years, and 23 per cent were aged 10-14 years.

Two-thirds of these children were boys and 71 per cent of workplace fatalities occurred in the transport, postal and warehousing industry as well as the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.

WorkSafe Victoria also issued a safety alert in 2023 about keeping children who are not employees safe in workplaces.

There are a number of reasons why children may be present at a workplace, according to the alert. For example, they may:

  •  live on a farm or at a place where business is conducted
  • enter a workplace with a family member who is an employee or employer
  • ride in a vehicle being use for work
  • be a student in a school, a patient in a hospital or a customer in a shop

enter the work area of someone who works from home

“Children are naturally inquisitive and may want to play in and explore the workplace. They are unlikely to think about the risks in the workplace,” the alert said.

“Children may also enter a workplace without permission, for example to play on a construction site or in a carpark or storage area after employees have left.”

If there is a chance of a child attending your workplace, for any reason, the alert said employers need to consider this when complying with your obligation to identify hazards and control risks. Possible risk controls may include:

 

  •  Ensuring children are appropriately supervised in the workplace
  • Ensuring hazardous areas are secure so children cannot access them
  • Creating a safe play area if children regularly attend the workplace
  • Developing a policy on children in the workplace. The policy should cover:
    o When it is appropriate for children to be in the workplace
    o Supervision requirements
    o Which areas of the workplace children can be in