By Brihony Tulloch
School holidays are fast approaching, which can spell trouble for some employees. Conflicting family schedules and the high price of childcare often makes bringing the kids to work an attractive option. Then there are the odd days when the little ones are ill and are far too young to leave at home alone – but you’re on a deadline and the work can’t wait till the next day.
A child is a person under the age of 15 for the purposes of employment, health and safety, and child employment laws.
There are also other circumstances in which a child might be at your workplace.
They might be:
- visiting family members; or
- being cared for or educated.
What are my WHS obligations?
Michael Selinger, Editor-in-Chief of the Health & Safety Handbook and Partner at Holding Redlich drills down into the issue.
“The duty of care you owe under health and safety laws extends to any worker or visitor to the workplace, including children,” says Michael.
“It is common for children to visit the workplace of a parent or other family member. While this is usually for short periods, in some cases, e.g. school holidays, children may spend longer periods at the workplace.”
This can extend to a child travelling with a parent while they are performing work.
What do I need to watch out for?
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.
What steps can I take to ensure I’m WHS compliant?
Michael suggests taking the following reasonably practicable steps to meet the challenges presented when children (not babies) visit your workplace:
Step 1: Issue a direction that any staff member who wishes to have their child visit the workplace must notify the HR manager or another senior contact person in advance.
Step 2: Depending on their age, require all children sign into the workplace or have their parent or guardian sign in for them.
Step 3: Require the worker whom the child is visiting to accompany them at all times.
Step 4: Clearly outline where they are not allowed to visit, e.g. the cleaning supply cupboard, the stairs, the carpark.
Step 5: Provide the child with information about the emergency procedures.