Safe Work Experience
The risk assessment process forms the basis of the health and safety protection of trainees, work experience placements and volunteers. A risk assessment begins with an initial assessment and, if necessary, is followed by a full risk assessment.
The purpose of an initial assessment is to identify:
- The presence of any trainees, work experience placements and/or volunteers among the workforce
- Any of these groups who might be vulnerable:
- young people
- new or expectant mothers
- older workers
- Which work activities and/or areas in the workplace may pose them a risk of harm and therefore warrant a full risk assessment taking place.
The initial risk assessment, and any actions taken because of it, should be recorded.
Full risk assessments
There are no specific risk assessment requirements or formats for work experience therefore risk assessments will need to be tailored to specific instances as appropriate. The control measures identified as necessary by the particular risk assessment should be applied accordingly.
Review of assessment
Review, and possibly revision, of the risk assessment will be required if:
- Any relevant health and safety issues arise during the training, placement or employment period
- There is reason to believe that the previous assessment is no longer valid (eg following a change in work activities and/or equipment)
- An injury or accident occurs.
While there are no specific requirements relating to the risk assessment process, there might be relevant considerations that need to be taken into account in relation to managing the health and safety work experience placements.
Employers considering accepting work experience placements will need to ensure effective communication with the organisation making the placement. Employers should ensure that there is:
- A formal written application process (if placements from one organisation are regularly made, this can be agreed on by the employer and organisation placing the staff)
- A completed risk assessment for the tasks intended to be undertaken by the work experience placement
- An induction session at the start of the placement to cover:
- introduction to departmental manager and colleagues or, if appropriate, the designated supervisor or mentor
- an overview of the general hazards associated with the organisation’s activities
- emergency arrangements, such as fire evacuation procedures and first-aid facilities
- accident reporting
- welfare arrangements, such as toilets, meal facilities and rest areas
- housekeeping arrangements, such as smoking policies, signing in and out, reporting sick leave, etc
- An evaluation of the effectiveness of the placement after it is completed.
In most cases, the employer will be approached to accept a placement and it is important to establish some preliminary facts at the application stage, including the:
- Number of placement positions required
- Aims and objectives of the placement (eg what is the desired outcome?)
- Nature of the placement (eg is there any specific work activity or training required?)
- Previous experience of work and/or the activity
- Duration of the placement
- Time (days and hours) proposed to be worked
- Any special needs or circumstances associated with the person undertaking the placement, e.g. under 18 years, pregnancy, disabilities, existing health or medical conditions.
An employer must also consider whether any exceptional circumstances are associated with the employer’s work activities or workplace that work placements could come into contact with. Exceptional circumstances can include bereavement in a care home setting or people with profound disabilities, etc. Such circumstances are likely to have a significant adverse effect on the person undertaking the placement.
How the person undertaking the placement will travel to the workplace, particularly if public transport is limited, the employer’s workplace is in a remote area and/or the placement involves unsociable hours, is another issue to consider.
Before an application is finally granted, employers may wish to invite the person undertaking the placement to visit the workplace in order to confirm both the agreed work arrangements and that the placement is what that person wants. If young people are involved, a representative from the school or college may accompany them or if it is a child (a young person of mandatory school age) they may be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Training, including the provision of relevant information and instruction, is important in ensuring that placements are aware of:
- Their own duties and responsibilities
- Any changes, revisions, etc to work activities.
Training should cover the following specific areas:
- Risks identified and why they are significant
- Control measures needed and how these will be implemented
- What is expected from the person undertaking the training or work
- Fire evacuation, first aid and accident-reporting procedures.
All training should be:
- Understood by the people it is intended for — this may mean adapting the training format, content, delivery, etc for different groups
- Evaluated to ensure its effectiveness
- Refreshed regularly, e.g. update sessions to re-emphasise key points.