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Health, Safety and the Law for employers of under-18s


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published updated guidance for employers of under 18s, which will also be helpful for parents, guardians, teachers and people who organise work experience.

Last year six under-19s lost their lives carrying out work-related activities, 1,551 sustained major injuries and a further 5,310 youngsters were off work for over three days as a result of a work-related illness or injury.

Young people at work – a guide for employers (second edition) explains employers’ duties to protect young people at work, as well as offer specific guidance on risks young workers are likely to encounter. The guidance includes:

  • particular risks to young people under 18 years of age;
  • what employers need to do to comply with the law;
  • specific restrictions on the work of young people;
  • the provision and use of work equipment to young workers;
  • how to get advice on limits on working hours, rest from work and annual holidays;
  • references to Approved Codes of Practice and other guidance which employers may find helpful in identifying and tackling specific risks to young people.

Dr Peter Graham, Head of HSE’s Strategy and Analytical Support Directorate said: “Starting work should be a time of considerable excitement and opportunity for young people, but they may also face unfamiliar risks from the job they will be doing and from the working environment. For example, they may find themselves working with – or near – powerful chemicals or machinery. Or they may be in an occupation with potential for violent or aggressive behaviour towards them. They are also likely to lack the confidence to question or challenge what they are asked to do, especially if they are trying to create a good impression with employers or colleagues.

“I am concerned that each year young people are exposed to risks in the workplace resulting in serious injury or ill health which will affect them for the rest of their lives. This guidance will help employers to assess the risks that young people face in the workplace and take appropriate measures to minimise those risks. Bosses also have a responsibility to give young people a firm grounding in health and safety which will serve them well throughout their working lives.”

The United Kingdom has implemented the health and safety protections for young employees introduced by the European Directive on the Protection of Young People at Work (the Young Workers’ Directive) through the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Young people at work: a guide for employers, provides guidance on the provisions of the Regulations which give employers particular responsibilities towards young people below the age of 18 years they employ.

Essentially an employer must carry out a risk assessment specifically taking into account the young person’s possible lack of awareness of existing or potential risks, immaturity and inexperience. The updated guide aims to help those responsible for assessing the risks to consider all relevant factors that might apply to young people in their particular workplace.

Young people on work experience programmes are regarded in law as the employees of their work placement provider. Those involved in organising work experience have expressed particular interest in this updated guidance as being relevant to the thousands of employers providing work placement for school pupils and students.

Details of publications:

Young people at work – a guide for employers
(HSG(G) 165 (rev)) ISBN 0-7176-1889-7, price £7.95

Managing health and safety at work – a guide for organisers
(HSG199) ISBN 0-7176-1742-4, price £6.50,

These can be ordered online at or are available from:

HSE Books,
PO Box 1999,
CO10 2WA

tel: 01787-881165
fax: 01787-313995.

HSE priced publications are also available from all good bookshops.

tel: 08701 545500,
or write to:

HSE Information Centre,
Broad Lane,
S3 7HQ.

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