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How do you monitor the learners in the Health and Safety?

A recent case in Sunderland saw a marine engineering company prosecuted for the death of a 19 year old apprentice who lost his life at work 4 years into his apprenticeship. The investigation and court case showed a distinct absence of safe systems of work including risk assessments and adequate supervision of the learner. There is no evidence from the reports that the provider responsible for the learner was at fault in anyway.

What we question however is the benefit of completing paperwork (HASP forms or similar) prior to the learning commencing and not having a system in place to validate that check when the learner is in situ. Here’s an example of what we mean. A standard set of questions on HASP paperwork asks:

  • Have control measures been identified and put in place as a result of risk assessments?
  • How are the risks and control measures explained to employees and others?

It is common to ask these questions prior to commencement of learning / contracting. Follow up procedures vary enormously across providers and include completing the forms again every 1, 2 or 3 years. This is not a sound process as at these stages the learner is already in place and the questions have less credibility through repetition.

The common problem with the HASP format is that asking the 2 questions above as an example extracts a yes / no answer, and sometimes a comment from the employer. In reality the questions and the answers have little bearing on the learner’s safety until they actually commence work.

Consider this, how more valid would each question be if they were as follows:

  • Are you aware of the hazards and risks particular to the work you are doing?
  • How are the controls to reduce the risk explained to you and do you understand them?

Asking these questions when the learning has commenced, as part of a structured process of monitoring the learner’s safety alongside their learning, is more valuable and relevant.

Whilst we are cautious not to recommend an increased level of bureaucracy, noting clearly that the HSEs guidance . This guidance asks that you do not ‘second guess the employers risk assessment ‘ something that is more likely to happen if you request documents at the pre-contract stage. The guidance also advises that it is ‘risk management that is important ‘ as well as ‘induction and supervision of the learner’.

What we advise though is a balancing out of the process. We suggest taking some of the overemphasis away from a first up ‘HASP style check of pre-conditions, and yes, being less bureaucratic!, introducing a more structured approach over the life cycle of the placement, irrespective of the scheme, and ask a few more detailed questions about, induction, supervision, site familiarisation, risk control.

There can’t be any certainty that changes such as those outlined above would have saved the life of the learner in Sunderland. Responsibility was and always will be with the employer. However if we accept that we have a duty of care as part of the process we should ensure that we discharge that duty of care throughout the learning cycle, monitoring and reviewing effectively and conscientiously.

DTD Training is a consultancy that specialises in training and support for the education and work based learning sectors. Director Tudor Williams is a registered consultant on the HSEs consultants register. We support provider networks and a growing number of individual providers across the UK with training and consultancy solutions. We are happy to discuss any questions or enquiries.


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