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May 21, 2008

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<b>Just ask</b>- Work experience

Question: We would like to partake in a work-experience programme with a local school. What do we need to do to comply with any statutory duties?

Answer: Work experience is an important introduction for young people to the workplace and its associated routines and disciplines. It provides a valuable opportunity for a young person to consider whether a particular working environment or career route is attractive to them, and for an organisation to involve itself in the process is a very clear indication of its commitment to an aspect of corporate social responsibility.

The very nature of the process means this is likely to be the person’s first exposure to a working environment and work processes, so, with good reason, there is an additional duty of care towards all young workers (work-experience placements included). The young age and general lack of awareness of workplace hazards and procedures means that young people are at a heightened level of risk, and the employer must take additional steps to ensure these risks are adequately controlled.

The Management of Heath & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 make it clear that, prior to them arriving, there should be a suitable assessment of the activities it is anticipated the young person will be involved in, and all hazards should be adequately controlled. They should not be exposed to work:

• which is beyond their physical or psychological capacity;

• involving harmful exposure to agents that are toxic or carcinogenic, cause heritable genetic damage or harm to the unborn child, or which in any other way chronically affect human health;

• involving harmful exposure to radiation;

• involving the risk of accidents that it may reasonably be assumed cannot be recognised or avoided by young persons, owing to their insufficient attention to safety, or lack of experience or training; or

• in which there is a risk to health from extreme cold or heat, noise, or vibration.

An additional level of supervision will be required when the person arrives, and they should be provided with clear information and instruction regarding the activities they will be expected to undertake, and, more importantly, those they will not be expected to perform. They should be given information about welfare arrangements and emergency procedures, as well as areas/sectors of the premises that are “out of bounds”.

In addition to statutory duties regarding health and safety it is important to be compliant with the Working Time Regulations. While on the placement, as long as the person is not at school on any days during the placement, then they should not work for more than eight hours in a day, and not for more than 40 hours in a week. Breaks should be arranged so that they have a minimum of 20 minutes’ break within a four-and-a-half-hour working period.

Every care is taken in the preparation of these questions and answers, which are supplied by Croner Consulting, a trading division of WoltersKluwer(UK) Ltd. Any advice or guidance contained herein is not to be taken as the official advice or guidance of IOSH or SHP/UBM. The information is correct at the time the answer was formulated and posted. However, the answers given can only address the general principles involved. Professional advice must be sought on any specific query or problem your business has relating to any issue or area raised.

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