Is it ever ok for kids visiting work sites or work environments to occur? The simple answer is no unless you work in an office building wearing a suit and the most dangerous thing in your office is the coffee machine. If you make something, pack something, store things, build things or transport things then your work environment is no place for children. There are simply too many things that can go wrong.
Now I need to preface this with my background of growing up on a farm and driving the tractor for my parents when I was 5 or 6 while they picked watermelons. This was a different time and without revealing my age lets just say it was a long time ago in a work environment far far away. And while we sometimes remember this fondly the truth is kids got hurt, our neighbor got seriously burnt, kids broke arms, legs and I consider it lucky that I didn’t loose any friends to workplace accidents. Back then my parents couldn’t have been fined, what am I saying there was no regulator like Worksafe at all. We all just did the best we could with what we had.
Move forward to today and things are very different, not only can kids get hurt in workplaces but you could find yourself in seriously hot water or worse depending on the outcome. There are clear definitions of a workplace and what your legal obligations are for that workplace. Most importantly those obligations extend to everyone from workers to visitors, contractors and kids.
Some of the challenges faced in managing children visiting the workplace include:
- knowing whether a child is attending the workplace on any given day;
- ensuring the child is supervised during their visit;
- ensuring the child is not exposed to any risks to their health and safety from business operations; and
- ensuring the child is aware of the workplace’s emergency safety procedures, e.g. the location of fire exits.
It’s really important to be aware of the risks when kids are going to be at your workplace if you have to have them there and it is certainly something that you should talk to your employee’s about so everyone is on the same page.
Take the following reasonably practicable steps to meet the challenges presented when children visit your workplace:
- Issue a direction that any staff member who wishes to have their child visit the workplace must notify the manager or another contact person in advance.
- Require all children to sign into the workplace or have their parent or guardian sign in for them.
- Require the person the child is visiting to accompany them at all times.
- Clearly outline where they are not allowed to visit, e.g. the cleaning supply closet and carpark.
- Provide the child with information about the emergency procedures.
Remember if you can avoid having them there that’s the easiest and safest option but if you really have to allow it then make sure you have thought through the process and put some rules in place for everyone. It just makes sense to have a plan and make sure no one gets hurt.