Work placements: Are they your safety blind spot?

According to the HSE, men aged 16–24 face a 40% higher risk of all workplace injury than men aged 45–54. As we’ve discussed in the past, there are many reasons that young workers are statistically more likely to be injured at work than those who have been on the job for years. Less training, lack of knowledge, or simply having less experience are all contributing factors.

While most companies are waking up to the importance of protecting their young workers, sometimes those who arrive on work experience can slip through the gaps, leaving them at risk of being seriously hurt – or worse…

A brief introduction to work experience

Being an employer of work experience students comes with many responsibilities. RoSPA has produced an excellent Young Workers Guide, in which we cover some of the crucial bits that employers need to know. Some important points to consider include:

  • Legally, work experience students are your employees. You should treat them the same as other young workers within your business.
  • If your business is a low-risk environment (e.g. a shop or office) your existing risk management arrangements for employees should be enough.
  • If your business has less common risks, you will need to make extra arrangements for placement students. This needs to cover issues such as inductions, site familiarity, supervision and any PPE that may be required.
  • If the placement is in a high-risk environment, you need to consider what the student will be doing and that the necessary training and supervision are provided. Are there any specific factors such as chemicals, extreme temperatures or radiation to consider?
  • When performing inductions check that students know the procedure for raising health and safety concerns.
  • Upon completion of the induction and training, ensure that students are aware of the hazards and risks in the work environment.

As ever, supervision is key, as it allows you to get a clear idea of the placement student’s capabilities and enables you to check the effectiveness of the training. Training is also important, but given that the placement is likely to be short, it only needs to cover off the tasks that the student will be undertaking.

Becoming a work experience expert

If you’re responsible for safe work experience placements within your organisation, you’ll need to have a more in-depth understanding of the risks involved. Thankfully, our IOSH Health & Safety For Work Placement Personnel course gives you all the skills you need to assess an organisation’s suitability for work experience placements.

Aimed at those working in the education sector, education business partnerships and organisations involved in arranging, monitoring and administrating work placements, the two-day course is specifically designed to teach delegates to communicate effectively with employers providing work experience opportunities, as well as ensuring that organisations fulfil their health and safety responsibilities to students on work experience.

For more information visit our website, email or call us on +44 (0)121 248 2233.

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