Risk assessment for employing children under 15 in food and hospitality

This guidance is to help businesses and organisations assess the risks to children's health and wellbeing when employing them in food and hospitality.

Employing children in your business or organisation

Child employment licence holders must assess and manage the potential risks to children they employ and comply with Child Safe Standards.

Consider the child's age and attributes when identifying and managing risks. Workplace risks for children may be different to those for adult employees.

Complete a risk assessment

  • Identify potential hazards

    List all the possible risks to children from the work, including potential risks to their mental health. This may include doing a walk-through of the actual workplace with others to identify hazards and speaking to staff. 


  • Assess risks

    The likelihood and consequence of harm occurring to a child will be different in each workplace. This means there may be different management controls. 

    A risk matrix and risk control plan can help identify, analyse and manage risks. Further information about risk assessment is available from WorkSafe. Employers can choose the way they document and communicate risks in their business. 

  • Control risks

    Make a list of controls and undertake associated actions to prevent and manage risks. Include who in the workplace is responsible. Develop an ongoing plan for continued risk management. 

    The plan may include tasks for different staff, but the child employment licence holder has overall responsibility for the child’s safety and wellbeing.  

  • Review

    Develop a process for checking existing hazards are being managed and new ones can be identified. Best practice controls should be implemented where possible. 

Light work

Children can only complete ‘light work’, meaning work that is not likely to be harmful to their health or wellbeing. This also applies to children working in their family's business.

Unless risks are effectively managed, the following are examples of what is not considered light work:

  • Repetitive bending, twisting or lifting
  • Manually lifting heavy items
  • Working with or near hot cooking equipment or food/ liquid
  • Working with or near dangerous equipment like knives, blades or power tools or broken glass or crockery
  • Working near moving vehicles
  • Working at heights
  • Working with or near uncontrolled animals
  • Working in extreme weather conditions.

Light work is assessed case by case, as every child is different.

Example hazards and controls

This table lists potential hazards to children employed in food and hospitality. The controls listed are a guide only.

Example hazardPotential impacts to childPotential controls (supervision in all situations)
Hot equipment, food and liquidsBurns
Heat stress
Isolate children away from these areas/ equipment
Training (in appropriate circumstances)

Sharp equipment such as knives and bladesCuts and other injuriesIsolate children away from these areas
Unsteady work environments (such as uneven or slippery floors)Slips, trips, falls, grazes, other injuriesPersonal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Work area safety walk-throughs
Manual handling (lifting, bending etc)Variety of injuriesTraining, assisted tasks, signage
Exposure to chemicalsChemical burns
Breathing impacts
Eye and skin irritations

Isolate children from products
Using diluted products (Material Safety Data Sheets followed)

Other unsafe work environments (e.g. poor lighting, non-compliant structures)Variety of injuriesBuildings, fittings and on-site equipment are compliant and checked, maintained and serviced as required
Extreme conditions (including non-compliant working hours or insufficient breaks)Fatigue, exhaustion, dehydration, exposureRequired rest breaks
Controlled environments (adequate heating and cooling)
Access to hydration
Aggressive colleagues or customersMental health
Intimidation and fear
Personal safety
Process for handling internal and external unacceptable behaviour
Security cameras
Signage for staff and customers
Shift debriefs
Access to phone to call 000
Uncontrolled/ aggressive animalsBites and other injuries
Adequate animal restraints and handlers
Areas of restriction between animals and children
Signage for those with animals

Further information about hazards in these settings is available from WorkSafe.

Contact us

If you have further questions about child employment, call us on 1800 287 287.