Children and young people within a Blue Light workplace

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With the development of Work Experience and Apprenticeship programmes across the Blue Light Services comes the additional responsibility of having children and young persons in potentially dynamically changing environments. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) requires additional considerations to be made for young persons.

The Blue Light Services have been encouraged to increase their integration of young persons through such schemes as the newly imposed Apprenticeship Levy.  All of the emergency services currently offer Government endorsed apprenticeship programmes to 16+ (

The Metropolitan Police Service works with Young persons as young as 14.

These programmes, although not solely for persons wishing to progress into full time blue light employment, will undoubtedly be a beacon for young persons looking to work in one of the emergency services.

This guidance note seeks to remind Blue Light Services of some of the main risk management considerations when using or employing young persons having regard for:

  • Health and safety – the law and managing the risk
  • Safeguarding vulnerable groups
  • Insurance requirements

For the purposes of this guide we are adopting following definitions:

  • Young Person – anyone under the age of 18
    • Child: anyone who has not yet reached the official minimum school leaving age.  (Pupils will reach the minimum school age in the school year in which they turn 16).

Health and Safety (HSE guidance)

Under health and safety law, every employer must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all their employees, irrespective of age. As part of this, there are certain considerations that need to be made for young people.

What does ‘so far as reasonably practicable’ mean - This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble.  However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk. (HSE 2017)

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 clearly outlines the employers responsibility to;

Ensure that young people employed by them are not exposed to risk due to:

  • lack of experience
  • being unaware of existing or potential risks and/
  • lack of maturity

An employer must consider:

  • the layout of the workplace
  • the physical, biological and chemical agents they will be exposed to
  • how they will handle work equipment
  • how the work and processes are organised
  • the extent of health and safety training needed
  • risks from particular agents, processes and work

Managing the risk

A robust and complete risk assessment is crucial to ensuring the safety of young persons and compliance with the law. It is not sufficient to deliver to children and young persons the same information, training, supervision and protection as other employees within the organisation. Recognition as to their particular vulnerability must be highlighted and appropriate changes and additional safeguards put in place to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

It is not necessary for the employer/manager to undertake a separate risk assessment for a child or young person however they must ensure that the current risk assessment appropriately considers risks for children and young persons and where a child or young person has particular needs that these are appropriately assessed.

A robust risk assessment process should firstly recognise that young persons may not recognise or be unfamiliar with what can be deemed ‘obvious’ risks, should take account of the work expected of the young person, their physical and psychological capacity to deliver, whether the work will expose the young persons to any harmful substances which may cause harm to health including radiation or any carcinogen. This process should also recognise that a young person’s threshold will be lower than other adults employed within the same environment.

Where the assessment identifies such risks then any person under 16 (child) MUST never be exposed to these types of hazard irrespective as to whether they are being supervised, have been trained or are part of any work experience programme

It is implicit within the guidance that the person assessing and managing these risks understand and recognise them. This may require additional training or workplace support from a properly trained person.

Tailored training for children and young persons may need to be considered due to their unique status within the workplace.

Young persons may complete tasks which expose them to higher risk, which can include toxic substances including radiation, where

  • the work is necessary for their training
  • the work is properly supervised by a competent person
  • the risks are reduced to the lowest level, so far as reasonably practicable

In higher risk workplaces the burden for employers will be greater with more attention and supervision required and in some cases additional adjustments may be necessary.

It should be remembered that health and safety legislation does not govern working hours. There are strict guidelines governing what hours children can work. In short children under 13 are prohibited from working other than in some areas such as television, theatre and modelling. Children can only begin to work full time hours upon reaching the minimum school leaving age and then only up to a maximum of 40 hours per week.

For full guidance see for a breakdown and clarification.

Children below the minimum school leaving age (MSLA) must not be employed in industrial workplaces such as factories, construction sites etc, except when on work experience.

Children and young persons in the workplace on training schemes or work placements are deemed employees for the period of the placement. It therefore becomes the employer’s responsibility to report matters arising out of their work.

Safeguarding children and vulnerable groups

Where volunteers will be working with children or vulnerable clients / service users, care must be taken to ensure the safeguarding responsibilities of the authority are met. The following risk control measures should be in place and included within the risk assessment process –

  • Suitable references should be obtained and checked
  • Checks made to ensure volunteers have not been barred from work with vulnerable groups (i.e. DBS checks in England & Wales, and PVG in Scotland)
  • Induction training and information provided
  • On-going and update training to maintain knowledge to current standards
  • Supervision by a competent person
  • Process of active feedback from clients/service users
  • Ready access to channels by which concerns can be raised in confidence.

General Public Liability Insurance

The work undertaken by young persons directly on behalf of a local authority will generally be covered by the authority’s public liability insurance.

Insurers will however want to be notified of the number of young persons employed and the type of activity in which they are engaged. In particular insurers should be notified of any plans to use young persons in activity that could be deemed higher-risk.

Young Persons working for other organisations

With the increase in apprenticeships and the drive for organisations to recruit and support such schemes and the pressures for Blue light services to collaborate it becomes highly likely that a service could find themselves collaborating with local authorities and other organisations who may have young persons or in some case children on work experience working within their work places. Blue light services need to ensure that they will not be exposed to material which could adversely affect them and that proper provisions are in place to ensure that necessary checks have been conducted (i.e. DBS/PVG).

Good Practice checklist

The following is a good practice summary checklist against which to check the adequacy of arrangements for managing the risk of a children and young persons in the workplace.

  • A child/Young Person policy is in place which links to the corporate health and safety and risk management policy
  • All tasks which Children and Young Persons are expected to undertake have been risk assessed and control measures implemented.
  • Any High risk activities in which Children or young persons are to be exposed to or engaging in are notified to the insurer.
  • A detailed record / register of children/Young Persons on work experience is maintained and available to the risk and insurance manager.
  • Documentation on work experience, children and young persons is retained for an adequate period, in-line with document retention policies applied to employees exposed to similar hazards.
  • All work experience, children and young persons are provided with induction and job related awareness, instruction and training to ensure they are able to carry out their role competently and safely. Training should be provided to all persons recognising individual needs and ensuring that proper support is available

All children and young persons must be provided with appropriate levels of support and supervision which is proportionate to the risks presented by the tasks assigned and their individual need.

  • There is regular monitoring and evaluation of the work experience programme, children and young persons to review the adequacy of risk control measures in place, identify any new or emerging risks and develop and implement solutions to improve risk management.
  • Collaborative departments that make use of children and young persons should be scrutinised to ensure they have the proper checks in place, are competent to deliver the service, adequately insured and standards of service delivery are regularly monitored and reviewed.

The golden rule is that generally a child or young parson should be afforded the level of information, training, supervision and protection as they need.


Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Occupiers' Liability Act 1957

Health and Safety Executive Guidance

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