What special health and safety arrangements should employers of children make?

These provisions are to be found in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Reg. 19, and are clear and unambiguous:

"Every employer shall ensure that all persons aged under 18 employed are protected at work from any risks to their health or safety which are a consequence of their lack of experience, or absence of awareness of existing or potential risks or the fact that young persons have not yet fully matured."

Employers must not employ a person under 18 in work which:

  • is beyond his or her physical or psychological capacity;
  • involves harmful exposure to radiation or agents which are toxic or carcinogenic, cause heritable genetic damage or in any other way chronically affect health;
  • involves the risk of accidents which it can reasonably be assumed cannot be recognised or avoided by young people owing to their insufficient attention to safety or lack of experience or training; or
  • involves a risk to health from extreme cold or heat, noise, or vibration.

The only exemptions to this rule are where:

  • it is necessary for training;
  • the young person will be supervised by a competent person; and
  • any risk will be reduced to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable.

The law requires employers to inform employees of the risks to their health and safety. Similarly, employers of children (but not of young people over school leaving age) are required to provide parents with 'comprehensible and relevant information' on the risks to their child, together with details of the preventative and protective measures in place.

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