02 April 2019


The manufacturing sector is renowned for being a diverse one. It is however the people who work in the sector itself that best illustrates its diversity with differing backgrounds, qualifications, experience, specialisms and, importantly, ages.

With large numbers of people employed in the sector  and a diverse age range, the need to implement and adhere to risk assessments to protect employees is more important than ever for manufacturing businesses. Despite a company’s best intentions and efforts, accidents can and will happen.

With a potential age gap of up to 50 years between the youngest and oldest employee, how do you assess the workplace risks which might have a different degree of significance depending on a worker’s age or experience?


Keeping an eye on the old guard

The manufacturing sector is the home of an ageing workforce, with almost a third of those employed within the sector over the age of 50. Although these workers have years of experience, it doesn’t mean they are safe from the potential risks of the job. Across 2016 and 2017 there were two fatalities in the manufacturing sector in the Yorkshire and Humber region – both involved workers over the age of 50.

Most businesses value their older workers for the broad range of skills, experience and judgement they bring to the workplace. But this enhanced expertise must be partnered with the correct health and safety measures – looking after your experienced workers is best for businesses and staff. With this in mind, here are my recommendations:

Your risk assessment needs to be constantly under review and evolving to ensure it is fit for an older workforce. To keep all workers safe, consider if any changes are needed, for example:

  • Self-paced safety training, to encourage older staff to adhere to any new regulations
  • Opportunities for older workers to transition into other roles
  • Eliminating or minimising the risks associated with manual handling by providing additional equipment and machinery where necessary
  • Develop a structured programme so your business captures the knowledge of your older workers and passes it on to the younger workforce;
  • Consult with your employees to help you manage health and safety risks, gaining feedback and insights into opportunities for improvements
Nurturing the youth

Typically defined as being between 16 and 18 years of age, young workers are the lifeblood of the manufacturing sector’s future.

However, businesses who employ young workers must adhere to specific regulations to ensure their health and safety are well protected.  These include the Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997, which also extends the requirement to carry out a risk assessment under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 for younger workers.

Specific risk assessments need to be completed too, taking into account factors such as a young worker’s immaturity, the risks and consequences of inexperience, and lack of awareness of risks that comes from being in a working environment. Plus, depending on the young worker’s age, you may also have to provide their parents or legal guardian with information about the risks to their health and safety.

Alongside risk assessments, you will also need to factor in the Working Time Regulations 1998, as any young worker cannot work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Where you offer overtime, or operate a shift pattern, this can be problematic to manage, especially for the conscientious young worker who wants to develop and learn at a quicker pace. Young people also may be prohibited from undertaking specific tasks, for example those in scope of the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002.

As you can see, there are a plethora of assessments and regulations to adhere to when employing younger workers, when compared to a more mature workforce. However, this should never be seen as a negative, as the next generation of workers are the future of your business.

If your manufacturing business would like help, guidance and advice on any health, safety or environmental topic, or support in dealing with an investigation or enforcement, please contact Gordons’ Head of Regulatory, Andrew Logan.




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