June 2019 | Fruit & Vegetable News Magazine

A rite of passage for many Australian teenagers is their first part-time or casual job. These jobs have numerous  benefits: they develop skills and experience, prepare them to be productive members of society and increase their self-esteem and resilience.

Despite these benefits, workers under the age of 18 are particularly vulnerable in the workplace. In fact, the agriculture industry has the highest rate of serious injuries for young workers. This may be because they are:

  • Still developing their skills
  • Lacking experience to judge risk
  • Hesitant to ask questions or report issues
  • Enthusiastic to make a good impression

So how do you effectively manage young workers to ensure they learn valuable skills and stay safe? Fair Farms promotes some keys processes and behaviours to ensure work does not interfere with minors’ education, health, development or safety.

Child labour

Fair Farms advocates that no child under the age of 13 should be employed. Children are at high risk of injuries,
especially on farms. You should check the ages of all workers and keep a register as evidence of this.

State laws

Each State and Territory has their own youth employment laws that cover when minors can start work, and any restrictions on what hours they can work. At a minimum, work should never interfere with minors attending school. You can find more information here: www.fairwork.gov.au/find-helpfor/young-workers-and-students/what-age-can-i-start-work

Health and safety

You should consider the age and skills of young workers, to make sure the tasks and responsibilities they undertake are appropriate. In considering this, workers under the age of 18 should not:

  • Work with or around harmful chemicals
  • Use or operate machinery
  • Work without supervision
  • Work in very loud environments

Make sure you also pay special attention to how long minors work for, when they work and any additional or tailored training they might need around safe work practices.

Work environment

Teenagers’ minds are still developing, so you should be careful and make sure the work environment is appropriate. This includes avoiding exposure to:

  • Vulgar language
  • Alcohol
  • Non-prescription drugs
  • Images or conversation of a sexual nature

The key to making sure all of these procedures work is to create and foster a culture of awareness and consideration.

Talk to other workers when you employ minors and discuss the special considerations everyone has to ensure a safe and productive workplace. These and other important topics are covered in the Fair Farms Standard, which sets out the accepted principles of fair and ethical employment in horticulture.