Young people at work

All jobs are important for young people in developing a work ethic and the skills to identify and manage work-related risks. The time a young person spends with any employer will help them to understand expectations in the workplace.

Young workers are at risk of workplace injury and illness because of their lack of work experience and limited awareness of risks.

Young people are often unfamiliar with workplace hazards and safety procedures, including their rights regarding working conditions.

They can be overly keen to please, or over-confident in their capabilities, and reluctant to ask questions or speak out about problems.

You should always raise any concerns you have at the workplace with your boss so that something can be done. They should appreciate you identifying the hazard. You could even suggest ways for solving the issue.

It's your boss's job to make sure that you have a safe place to work. It’s your job to speak up if you feel unsafe. Whatever the type of employment – full time, part time, casual – your employer needs to make sure your workplace is safe and healthy for everyone.

Your mouth is a great bit of safety gear – use it and start talking.

Young workers don’t have the physical ability or skills to do some work, and there are certain types of work that young people must not do, and work areas that young people must not be in.

Workers under 15 years old can’t be in areas that involve:

  • manufacturing goods
  • construction
  • logging or tree felling
  • hazardous substances.

And they can’t:

  • work with machinery
  • drive a vehicle, or ride on a vehicle with something attached (eg a trailer).

How to help young people at work

Employers and supervisors of young workers have a big influence on their attitude to health and safety.

The PCBU is ultimately responsible for workers’ health and safety. This includes protecting young workers from both physical and psychological hazards.

Help create safe and healthy environments for young workers, including by:

  • introducing them to their workmates and supervisors, and explaining their roles
  • walking around the site identifying hazards together
  • explaining what is expected of them with regards to workplace behaviour
  • leading by example – 'walking the talk'
  • educating them about their health and safety rights and responsibilities
  • advising them of hazards in the workplace and how to avoid being injured
  • advising them what to do in case of an emergency and showing them where safety equipment is located
  • providing them with personal protective equipment, if needed
  • providing them with training on how to do the job, taking into account their lack of working experience
  • empowering them to speak up about safety and health issues in the workplace
  • developing their capability to assess and manage risks
  • promoting a positive workplace culture, driven by leadership and communication
  • providing ongoing instruction and supervision
  • considering the tasks you give them to do, given their skills, abilities and experience
  • identifying the gaps in their knowledge and assessing their ability to work safely. Don’t just assume their own assessment of their ability is accurate
  • having an adult, experienced worker supervise them.

Young workers also have responsibilities, to:

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety at work
  • ensure they don’t adversely affect the health and safety of others
  • wear the PPE provided to them
  • comply with any reasonable instructions
  • cooperate with any reasonable health and safety policies and procedures.

It is important that young workers actively participate in the way that work health and safety is managed in their workplace. Take the induction and training seriously, follow the risk management process for the jobs you’re doing, and ask for help when you need to.

We have produced guidance to explain requirements for young people in workplaces:

Information sheet about young people in the workplace

More resources

Ministry of Education - Students on work experience(external link)

Employment New Zealand - Young employees(external link)