Protecting Vulnerable Workers in Organisations

Learn how employers can create a safe and inclusive workplace that prioritises the health and safety of vulnerable workers.

Protecting Vulnerable Workers in Organisations

In today’s society, creating a safe and inclusive workplace is not just a moral obligation, but also a legal requirement for employers. A safe and inclusive workplace ensures that every employee feels valued, respected, and protected from harm. It is the responsibility of employers to prioritise the health and safety of all workers, including those who may be more vulnerable due to various factors. By fostering a safe and inclusive environment, employers can promote employee well-being, productivity, and overall organisational success.

There may be certain groups of workers who are more vulnerable to health and safety risks, so the organisation must implement additional measures to protect them. In addition to young workers, disabled workers, older workers, pregnant women, and workers with language disabilities, there are other groups of vulnerable people as well.

It is essential that organisations have a health and safety plan that protects them from all health and safety risks. They should also have special measures to rescue them in the event of an emergency.

It’s important to think about everyone who might be affected by your work activities when managing and controlling health and safety risks. You’ll learn about vulnerable people in the workplace and how you can include them and protect them.

Understanding vulnerable workers

Vulnerable workers are individuals who face increased risks and challenges in the workplace due to various factors such as age, gender, disability, or socio-economic status. These workers may be more susceptible to workplace hazards, discrimination, and exploitation. It is crucial for employers to identify and understand the specific needs and vulnerabilities of their workforce to effectively address health and safety concerns. By recognising and addressing these vulnerabilities, employers can create a workplace that is safe and inclusive for all employees.

There are a few examples of vulnerable people below, which you can find helpful:

People with disabilities. Disabilities are physical or mental impairments that adversely affect daily life in significant and long-term ways. 

A young person. The term “youth” refers to those under the age of 18. As a result of their inexperience, lack of knowledge, and immaturity, they are considered vulnerable.

New and expecting mothers. Compared to the rest of the workforce, new and expecting mothers have different and more specific needs.

Older employees. A higher risk of workplace injury exists among older employees, who are less likely to report hazards or injuries.

Migrant workers. Due to language barriers and insufficient experience, many migrant workers will struggle to complete tasks effectively, safely, and efficiently.

Discrimination against a particular person or group (or any vulnerable person) should never be justified by health or safety concerns. Adapting the task to suit each individual may just mean adjusting it for his or her unique talents.

Employee responsibilities: what are they?

Every vulnerable employee, like every other employee, has a duty to protect their health, safety, and the health and safety of others who may be negatively impacted by their actions. Whenever an employee’s disability changes, they should inform their employer so that the employer can make a reasonable adjustment to the safety aspects of the job.

Employers, what’s your duty?

An assessment of risk should take into account the needs of all employees, visitors, and business users with disabilities. If there is a new risk associated with the disability or if there is an existing risk that is changed, it must be considered. Consider the following examples:

  • What are the accessibility options for wheelchair users?
  • Does the control height make it easy to use?
  • Does the toilet facility accommodate all people with disability?

It’s important to share the results of this assessment with all employees and visitors.

In the assessment process, people with disabilities should be an integral part, as they’ll know how their conditions affect the workplace best. It is possible to involve the person’s specialist doctor, provided they give their express consent.

Aside from assessing what changes can be made to company policies and procedures, the employer should also consider physical changes to the workplace. In order to make their workplace accessible to everyone, companies can apply for the “Access to Work Grant.” While waiting for this, companies can make changes to their workplace at short notice. To access the work area in a temporary manner, for example, would be an option.

It is also important to make sure that people with disabilities have access to the same training and job-related information as any other employee and to information about the safety measures that are in place for them as well.

Young people

Young people may lack experience, knowledge of potential hazards and/or maturity and employers must take this into account when assessing risks. 

New and expectant mothers:

Upon receiving a written notification from a worker, employers can either modify or create a new risk assessment. It is important to take into account how pregnancy may affect the health and safety of the employee. Individuals may find it difficult to lift or manipulate objects manually, for example. 

New and expectant mothers are at risk for three types of risks:

  • Office chairs with lower back support could be a short-term solution to improve comfort and health in the workplace.
  • Changing the tasks to be performed (with the same salary) so that they will be less harmful to the health of the pregnant woman.
  • To protect the employee’s health and safety, consult with them and limit their duties with pay.

Migrant workers:

The safety standards they will have to follow in your workplace may be different from what migrants are used to. Make sure that the employee knows what to expect and that he understands their responsibilities. It may be difficult if the employee does not speak English well, but the employer has a duty to ensure they understand all safety-related information.

The needs of vulnerable people at work must be carefully assessed by employers so that safety and legal rights can be reconciled. Whenever possible, reasonable adjustments should be made to accommodate vulnerable people’s needs. The refusal to accommodate vulnerable people in a particular role or area of the workplace is not legal, but it is never easy to justify. A reasonable adjustment can often be made much more easily and efficiently than justifying its refusal.

Health and safety regulations for vulnerable workers

Health and safety regulations play a vital role in protecting vulnerable workers. These regulations are designed to ensure that employers provide a safe and healthy working environment for all employees, regardless of their vulnerabilities. Employers must comply with these regulations by implementing appropriate safety measures, conducting regular risk assessments, and providing necessary training and protective equipment. By adhering to health and safety regulations, employers can prevent workplace accidents, injuries, and illnesses among vulnerable workers.

Mental health in the workplace

Mental health is an essential aspect of overall well-being, and it is equally important in the workplace. Vulnerable workers may face additional challenges when it comes to their mental health due to various factors such as stress, discrimination, or lack of support. Employers should prioritise mental health in the workplace by promoting a positive work environment, raising awareness about mental health issues, and providing access to mental health resources. By addressing mental health concerns, employers can support the well-being and productivity of their vulnerable workers.

Supporting youth mental health

Youth mental health is a critical issue that deserves special attention in the workplace. Young workers often face unique challenges as they navigate the transition from school to work and deal with various pressures. Employers can support youth mental health by creating a supportive and understanding work environment, offering flexible work arrangements, and providing access to mental health resources. By investing in the mental health of young workers, employers can help them thrive both personally and professionally.

Introduction to Youth Mental Health First Aid

Youth Mental Health First Aid is a training program designed to equip individuals with the skills and knowledge to provide initial support to young people experiencing mental health problems. This program can be invaluable in the workplace, as it enables employees to recognise the signs of mental health issues, offer appropriate support, and guide individuals to professional help when needed. By implementing Youth Mental Health First Aid in the workplace, employers can create a culture of care and support for their vulnerable workers.

Implementing Youth Mental Health First Aid in the workplace

To implement Youth Mental Health First Aid in the workplace, employers should consider providing training sessions for interested employees. These sessions can be conducted by certified instructors or external organisations specialising in mental health training. By investing in this training program, employers can empower their employees to effectively respond to mental health challenges among their colleagues and create a workplace environment that prioritises the mental well-being of all workers.

Resources for promoting health and safety for vulnerable workers

There are numerous resources available to employers to promote health and safety for vulnerable workers. These resources can include government agencies, non-profit organisations, and industry-specific associations. Employers should take advantage of these resources to stay informed about health and safety regulations, access training programs, and seek guidance on creating a safe and inclusive workplace. By utilising these resources, employers can enhance their knowledge and capacity to protect the health and safety of their vulnerable workers.

Training programs for supporting vulnerable workers

In addition to Youth Mental Health First Aid, there are various other training programs available to support vulnerable workers. These programs can address specific needs and vulnerabilities such as workplace accommodations for individuals with disabilities or cultural sensitivity training for diverse workforce. By investing in these training programs, employers can equip their employees with the skills and knowledge to create an inclusive and supportive workplace environment for all.


Creating a safe and inclusive workplace is not just a legal obligation, but a moral imperative. Employers must prioritise the health and safety of all workers, including those who may be more vulnerable due to various factors. By understanding the specific needs and vulnerabilities of their workforce, employers can implement appropriate measures to protect the well-being of their employees. By fostering a workplace that promotes mental health, offering training programs, and utilising available resources, employers can create an environment where vulnerable workers can thrive. Let us strive to create workplaces that prioritise health and safety for all employees, ensuring a brighter and more inclusive future for everyone.

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