Health and safety for apprentices

This information is designed for use by union reps. If you are an apprentice, see our Information and resources for apprentices.

Health and safety is relevant to everyone in the workplace but young people are particularly vulnerable to accidents at work as they do not have as much experience or training as older workers.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), young men aged 16–25 face a 40 per cent higher relative risk of all workplace injury than men aged 45–54.

The Law

Under the Health and Safety and Work Act 1974 young workers should receive at least the same protection as other workers. However, there are some legal provisions that apply specifically to workers aged under 18. The joint TUC and Learning and Skills Council (LSC) publication Apprenticeships: A short guide for union safety representatives (pdf) was published in July 2005. The purpose of the guide is to help safety representatives ensure that apprentices learn and work in a safe, healthy and supportive environment.

Checklist for union reps

When talking to an employer about taking on apprentices, you should make sure you cover the following points:

  • Has the employer done a full risk assessment on all aspects of the apprentice’s job before they start, taking into account the apprentice’s lack of experience?
  • Is health and safety covered in the induction training and is it appropriate to the kind of work that the apprentice will be doing?
  • Are supervisors trained and competent to supervise a young person and are they given enough time to do so?
  • Is health and safety an integral part of the training that the young person receives?
  • Is the apprentice issued with appropriate protective clothing and equipment?
  • Is the apprenticeship training and any injuries relating to apprentices being monitored by the employer?

The role of the union safety rep

Union safety reps and negotiators are likely to be aware of the general potential hazards in their workplace and the measures that should be taken to protect their members’ health and safety. They are ideally suited to be both messengers and champions for the health and safety agenda within a workplace. They can help support an apprentice’s needs within a specific workplace and help ensure a safe and healthy working environment.

Where they are present, union safety representatives work with stewards and union learning representatives to ensure that health and safety is core to any Apprenticeship scheme. Often this means making sure that the employer has done a full and sufficient risk assessment on all aspects of the proposed work of the apprentices before they start, and that these take into account the lack of experience and lack of awareness about possible risks.

Next: Mentoring apprentices