WorkXperience - Health and Safety Concerns
While a school continues to have responsibility for students on work experience, the employer has the same responsibilities for their health, safety and welfare whilst the student is on an employers premises. As most students undertaking work experience will be under the age of 18 years and in some cases, may be under 16 years, employers facilitating work experience should review the relevant sections of the ‘Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act, 1996' to ensure compliance.
In general, the Act prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16. However, employers can take on 14 and 15 year olds as part of an approved work experience or education programme where the work is not harmful to their safety, health, or development. There are also some limitations around working hours, rest breaks, night time work etc. which apply to those 17 yrs and under.
In taking steps to ensure the safety of students while on work experiences an employer should:
- Assess the Risks - in advance of any work experience student starting, identify any risks associated with the placement and minimise these were possible. Take into account that these young people are likely to be inexperienced, unaware of health and safety risks and physically or mentally immature. They should not be required to operate any hazardous machinery or work in hazardous environments as their short placements would not allow sufficient training.
- Appropriate supervision - young people will be facing unfamiliar risks from the job they will be doing and from their surroundings and are therefore likely to need more supervision than adults. Good supervision will also help you to get a clear idea of their progress in the job and to monitor the effectiveness of their training.
- Induction - ensure any initial briefing/training that the student receives on commencing their work experience covers the important elements of your health and safety policy including:
- identifying any risks associated with their work experience or their presence on your premises
- ensuring that the students receive appropriate instructions about the tasks they are to perform and company safety regulations including the wearing of protective clothing or equipment.
- advise on systems for dealing with accidents and emergencies.
If the student is absent for any part of the placement or any incident or accident occurs, you should immediately notify the Career Guidance Counsellor or co-ordinating teacher in the school.