The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is carrying out an inquiry into the health and safety of apprentices in the workplace.
A team formed by the safety charity, known as the National Occupational Safety and Health Committee is charged with the responsibility of investigating whether or not trainees are being given adequate guidance into safety procedures which will ultimately decrease their likelihood of injury and save lives.
Dr Karen McDonnell is the RoSPA’s occupational health and safety policy adviser. She recognises that apprentices are at an increased risk of accident compared to more experienced employees. This is due to ‘their lack of experience and enthusiasm’ and is most likely coupled with the need for apprentices and junior employees to impress their bosses by displaying a passion for the job. Apprentices are also typically younger than the average employee, with around 130,000 under the age of 19. This means that they suffer from a lack of knowledge and experience about how to conduct themselves safely in a working environment.
The inquiry very much places the onus on the employer to meet certain health and safety criteria which is designed to look after the welfare of apprentices. The RoSPA inquiry will judge how well individual organisations are doing at safeguarding their employees. They will also evaluate where the gaps are in their safety procedures and assess how well a business learns from and reacts to any past accidents that have already occurred in the workplace.
Some industries, such as construction, require their supervisors to undertake regular training to ensure that their sites are being responsibly managed by staff who have been taught current health and safety measures and guidelines. SSSTS training courses are essential for the training and development of existing construction site supervisors. Candidates will learn about crucial aspects of safety including:
An SSSTS course is usually attended on two days within a two week period. Candidates learn presentation skills and are assessed with a twenty-five question multiple choice examination at the end of the course in order to obtain a valid SSSTS certificate. The certification lasts for five years, but it is recommended that candidates refresh their knowledge after three years. SSSTS is also a perfect pre-course for the more in-depth five day SMSTS or Site Management Safety Training Scheme.
However, it is vital that apprentices do not simply rely on the safety management of their supervisors but that they are also able to train towards becoming ‘effective health and safety leaders’ of their own making. Apprentices should be taught how to act responsibly in the working environment and be turned into safety role models for any future apprentices or junior members of staff that arrive into the team.
With over 100,000 employers offering apprenticeships in over 200,000 workplaces in the UK, this entry method to formal employment is certainly a popular one at present. The results of the RoSPA inquiry will be eagerly anticipated, but for now employers should examine their own health and safety measures to ensure that trainees are being looked after.
Glen Hughes is the director of Zero Harm Training, who provide safety & environmental training courses across the UK and internationally.
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