Guest blog –  Maxine Targett of Relyon Safety Services

I’ve may have used a strong title, but you would hope as an employer to have a zero-fatality rate within your workforce. No one ever imagines the worst can happen until it does, so here are some top tips and guidance to ensure all your apprentices make it through their apprenticeship unscathed.

Apprentices are usually although not exclusively young people. Many new apprentices are like a new-born Giraffe full of enthusiasm but unsteady on their feet and naïve regarding their new and potentially dangerous environment. As they have taken a role where they learn whilst they work it makes them a great asset to any businesses in so many industries. However, this need not make having an apprentice daunting, you should already have your formal Health and Safety policies and procedures in place, especially if you have 5 or more staff. Apprentices and young people just mean considering risks from a slightly different perspective.

So here are a few to tips:

  1. Don’t assume anything, we all know what they say about assumptions. Apprentices can be as young as 16 so ensure that you have a robust induction process and start from the very basics, it’s better to tell them some things they already know than to miss a fundamental safety point that leads to a near miss or even an injury. By far the biggest tools in terms of Health and Safety for an apprentice is appropriate supervision and effective training.
  2. We are not all born with common sense! What you believe to be obvious after the years you have in your industry may not be obvious to the apprentice. Even with long serving staff members common sense may no inf act be that common. Try to take it back to basics and think about your first day and what you would have needed to know, especially in regard to safety.
  3. Throwing them in at the deep end is rarely the best course of action. Build them up over their first few weeks so you can be sure that they are safe to undertake all tasks expected of them. This also helps to allow your apprentice to feel supported and not overwhelmed therefore improving retention.
  4. Physical risks very rarely affect young people differently to any other employee, the difference is the likelihood of incidents to occur and this is due to an apprentices’ lack of knowledge or experience in a workplace environment. Consider also if the apprentice is a young person, they may never have been in a similar working environment and this may affect their capability to handle certain situations or equipment.
  5. Providing supervision from an experienced member of staff and some method of assessment when introducing apprentices to new tasks and work environments is an effective way to ensure they take on safe working practices from the start of their employment. Taking the time to do this is much easier and more efficient for the business than correcting bad habits later. Also ensure they feel comfortable asking for support or asking questions, as they can often feel embarrassed if they need to ask for help and this may result in them putting themselves at risk.
  6. Ensuring an apprentice is familiar with layout of their workplace is also crucial for helping them to maintain Health and Safety. For example, do they know where the PPE (if required) is kept and where to find the first aid kit, also who the nominated first aider is. If working in an environment involving machinery, even if they won’t be using it, consider explaining how to shut if off correctly in case of emergency. Do they drive? If so, are they aware of your procedures in the event of them being involved in a road traffic incident while working on your behalf?

To help you put this into practice when working with an apprentice, employers should ask themselves these questions:

  • Is the task within the persons physical/mental capabilities?
  • Are they mature enough to fully understand what is required to perform the task safely?
  • Have they been trained to carry out this role correctly?
  • Do they still need supervision?
  • Do you have a formal health and safety policy and documented procedures?
  • Have you carried out suitable risk assessments for your business’ undertakings?

If you have answered NO to any of the above questions and would like to find out more on how your business can improve its safety procedures, then this I can help with, why not get in contact with me: Maxine Targett of Relyon Safety Services. If you would like a review of your Health and Safety policies before bringing a new apprentice or young person into your workplace, I can provide support whatever your needs and industry requirements:

If you would like more information on taking on an apprentice then please contact professional apprenticeships:

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