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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
February 6, 2006

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Safeguarding the next generation

In the first in a new series on young people, IOSH President Neil Budworth explains why he wants practitioners to play their part in keeping young workers safe.

We know that young people are especially vulnerable to accidents when they first start their working lives. This is often because they are less skilled, do not understand the workplace they are entering, are not aware of hazards they will face or lack the confidence and social skills to challenge those who may ask them to perform an unsafe act.

These are all things that safety and health professionals know, but we’ve been unable to change it — so far. It is time we as a profession stood together to help protect the next generation. There are many good reasons to challenge the accepted order in relation to the safety of young people, but the most important one is very simple — it is the right thing to do.

I am proud that IOSH is no longer willing to sit on the sidelines. We are going to enter this debate with a positive, loud voice. We need to make health and safety interesting and engaging, and this year we will be launching another health and safety competition aimed at schools that follows on from last year’s successful Noisybox competition. But it will be even bigger and better.

We also need to get information to schools to engage young people before they enter the workplace for the first time. We have already started on this, and are working with the HSE to develop a specific health and safety resource for schools.

But this on its own is not enough. We want to understand the level of risk faced by young people on government training schemes, so we will be asking questions to find out exactly what the injury rates are. If the figures need improvement we will be challenging the government to make changes, so that fewer young workers are injured when they take those first steps.

We also need your help. We will be initiating a publicity campaign to highlight the vulnerability of young people and the actions that can and should be taken by responsible employers to protect them. This is very much a first for IOSH, and we will be seeking to use all avenues to help us promote this cause.

But, a centrally-led campaign will only have limited impact, and that’s why we need each and every IOSH member, branch and specialist group to consider how they can engage their local community or sector. The more of you get involved, the bigger an impact we will have.

There are good reasons for IOSH to focus on the safety of young people — engaging young people means they will carry the information for life, and as they enter the workplace they will be less tolerant of unsafe behaviour and become, themselves, drivers for improvement.

It really is the right thing to do, and I hope you will all involve yourself in our campaign in whatever way you can.

IOSH campaign 2006: safeguarding the next generation

* We’re initiating a year-long campaign to highlight the actions that can and should be taken by responsible employers to protect young people

* We’ll be working with the HSE to promote European Week for Safety and Health at Work 2006, which focuses on young people

* As part of European Week, we’ll be launching a UK-wide health and safety competition for 14 to 19-year-olds

* We’re investigating the level of risk faced by young people on work experience and producing a simple guide for first steps in the workplace

* We’re working with teachers’ organisations and will continue to push for better representation of risk issues on the National Curriculum

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