Young Workers

Work Experience Organisers : Test Your Skills!


Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 1
Since the skirt is not really a Health and Safety issue, and the employer does not provide a uniform, this is a case where tact and diplomacy come into play. If the girl is rude or intransigent she is likely to be asked to leave. If she is not, but genuinely has no other skirts, you might explain the situation to the provider and suggest that she be given a role behind the scenes. It is, however, worth pointing out to students before work experience that they should consider appropriate clothing for the job they will be doing. It is the student's responsibility to observe safety rules and dress appropriately.

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 2
It is the employer's duty to make the workplace safe and ensure that employees, paid, unpaid or on placement, are given instruction and training about Health and Safety. The potential danger should have been noticed during the risk assessment or during a site visit. If the student was taking adequate care for his own safety, and not fooling around, then the employer is at fault. In your dealings, however, you should consider whether you might wish to place students in this firm again!

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 3

  1. Even when a student’s workplace provider is a member of his/her family, a risk assessment must be done by the provider. It is a legal requirement and you must insist.
  2. The carpenter should have been treated for the cut, and there should have been investigations made into the cause of his symptoms. All workplaces must be equipped with first aid supplies and there must be a qualified first-aider on hand. The accident should also have been reported and logged.
  3. It seems likely that the carpenter’s injury was due to the effect of solvent sickness. Employers must inform workers using hazardous solvents of the hazards involved, and train them in measures needed to use them safely. They can be breathed in or absorbed through the skin. Over 2 million workers regularly use solvents in industries such as painting, printing, degreasing operations and dry-cleaning. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, irritation to eyes, lungs or skin and loss of consciousness. Long term exposure can lead to very serious consequences. The carpenter should probably have been wearing P.P.E., but the employer should have looked for a safe alternative before resorting to a hazardous option.

(See TUC leaflet ‘Hazards at work’, or visit the TUC website at

It seems unlikely that Mr. Latey pays much attention to Health and Safety, so you should think carefully before allowing Martin to do his placement there, and in any case demand a risk assessment.

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 4
Of course your student is probably keen not to rock the boat if she wants to work here. However, there is no guarantee of a job, and you are responsible for the student’s welfare. The manager has no right to exploit her. It is also unlikely that she is getting the proper training in her tasks if they are under-manned. You should check that:

  1. She has received training and a full explanation of hazards and safety procedures and measures, (e.g. first aid, fire and evacuation procedures, proper ways of lifting to avoid damage to her back).
  2. She is having time off, either as a break (roughly 20 mins. If working day is more than 6 hours), or in lieu elsewhere in the day.
  3. She is getting a continuous break of 12 hours every day between work shifts.
  4. There is someone designated to supervise her, and that they are doing the supervision, offering help and assessing her capacity and competence to do the job.

Work experience is not a source of free labour. It imposes responsibilities on the provider.

Entitlements to breaks varies, but there are clear guidelines laid down by European law. Those over MSLA but under 18 are covered by the Young Workers Directive. (See 'Take a Break', leaflet provided by the TUC)

There are special conditions laid down in jobs which require ‘continuity of service or production’ such as hospitals, airports, postal services, agriculture, utilities. Here you may have your breaks at work varied. But if you cannot take your break, you must be given time off at another time. Some jobs entitle you to longer breaks or more breaks, (e.g. if the work is particularly dangerous or repetitive, as in the case of continuous keyboard skills).

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 5
The fact that the salon has done a comprehensive and honest risk assessment is encouraging. You should visit the site and see how they manage the risks in reality. Is the P.P.E. used? Is training give? Are staff aware of Health and Safety measures? Is there a first aid kit available?

You should also enquire about the specific jobs that the student will be doing. Young people under MSLA may not, for example, do work which

  • Is beyond their physical or psychological capacity
  • Exposes them to substances harmful to human health
  • Involves a risk of accidents which they are unlikely to recognise
  • Involves a risk to their health from extreme heat, noise, vibration or any radiation

If you are satisfied with the arrangements, you should ensure that the student is told about the risks and the measures put in place to control them. Because young people may not appreciate the dangers to their health, or may not understand or follow the instructions properly because of immaturity , they must be adequately supervised and not allowed to perform dangerous procedures. (See ‘Young People at Work, a guide for employers’, pp 11-25, for a full list of specific risks to young people and how to avoid them).

The student’s parent/guardian will have to provide information about any health condition that might make the placement inadvisable, e.g. allergies, asthma. (Hairsprays , use of chemicals might trigger an attack).

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 6
To resolve the situation, firstly you should reassure the student that the behaviour of his co-workers is wrong and contravenes the law regarding bullying in the workplace. He also should be told that the supervisor had not been informed beforehand about the problem and it wasn't his/her intention to embarrass the student. Make it clear that you had told the manager but s/he had failed to pass on the relevant information to the supervisor. You could suggest that, before the student's return, you would speak to the supervisor personally but, better still, arrange to accompany the student and have a 3-way discussion with the supervisor in order to establish better working conditions for the student. You could tactfully point out that abuse of any sort in the workplace is controlled by law. If the student appears too distressed to return to work you should explain to the student that he would have to remain in school, assuming that an alternative placement couldn't be found.

In order to prevent such a situation arising, the organiser should submit, in writing, details of a student's medical condition to both the manager and the supervisor, checking that there is a policy for passing this information on to the relevant workforce, if necessary. At the initial visit the organiser should find out the name of the supervisor and double check before the commencement of the placement that the supervisor remembers about the need for breaks and will deal with this matter with discretion. (Perhaps some information about how to deal with this medical condition if an emergency arises would be welcomed by the supervisor). It is also important for the organiser to be aware of any safety factors regarding the machinery being used and perhaps question the suitability of working with machinery for students suffering from this type of condition. If there is any evidence of bullying in a subsequent placement at the same firm, then the organiser should consider dropping this firm. The organiser might consider including some role play sessions for the students prior to their Work Experience on how to deal with difficult situations including bullying, teasing and racist remarks. Some useful leaflets on these subjects are available free with sae from the TUC. Advice on health and safety matters regarding medical conditions etc. can be found on the Health and Safety Executive's website.

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 7
To resolve the situation, first contact the supervisor assuring him/her that your student is happy with the work and with the company. Ascertain if the supervisor is aware of the poor lighting, unsuitable chair and the fact that the student is not getting sufficient breaks. If you get a negative reaction and the supervisor points out that all the employees work under the same conditions and your student should not be treated differently then it would be advisable to speak to the Health and Safety Representative in the company suggesting s/he ask the supervisor to comply with the agreement which was made at the initial visit. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 require employers to minimise the risks in VDU work by ensuring that workplaces and jobs are well designed. Breaks must be given, although the length and frequency does depend on the nature and intensity of the work. In the above regulations the screen, keyboards, desks, chairs, work environment and software must comply. You could tactfully suggest that your student be given a written reminder to take breaks. You could point out that the chair and lighting do not comply with the Regulations and suggest to the supervisor that in order for your student to produce better quality work for the company she should be given an adjustable chair and better lighting. It is in the company's interest to have a stress free workforce and the student's headaches and backache will cause her unnecessary stress, which in turn will be reflected in the quality of the work produced.

In order to prevent such a situation arising, when making an initial assessment of the placement provider, make sure you can speak to the supervisor personally and see beforehand exactly where your student will be working so that you can be sure that conditions meet the Regulations. Ask if your student could have, in writing, before commencing her work experience, some recommendations about taking breaks, adjusting the chair, positioning the keyboard, mouse etc. Familiarize yourself with the suggestions for good practice in the HSE booklet 'Working with VDUs'. For more details of the Regulations read the HSE publication . You can also obtain a workstation assessment checklist from HSE. The TUC produce pamphlets and books on this theme ( You could run through the basic advice with your student before the placement, which would in turn apart from informing her of her rights would also give the young person more confidence to actively request breaks and better physical working conditions if needed.

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 8
A risk assessment must be carried out whenever possible! It is crucial in determining if a placement is suitable for a student, and you will need to explain this to the parents. If all parties concerned are still happy for the placement to proceed, it is possible that the initial visit may not be necessary.

However, you must take into careful consideration your past knowledge of the supermarket chain and this type of working environment. If you have had students in previous placements with the company, there will be some historical information. You will need to check any accident reports and feedback from other students on their return to school. Only having done this, and satisfied yourself, would you be advised to allow the placement to go ahead. If the placement does go ahead you are strongly advised to visit the workplace as soon as possible.

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 9
Although most of this recommended action is common sense, the HSE guidelines are very clear about what needs to be done in such a situation. The immediate step is to tactfully raise your concerns with the placement provider. Since the company has a very good track record, you will be keen to keep the placement available, but you need to establish what the provider will do to rectify the situation, and in what time-frame.

Having done this and satisfied yourself with the employer's response, you may feel the situation has been resolved. If this is not the case, and you believe that significant heath and safety risks have been identified you should report the matter to the HSE or Environmental Health Department of your local council. A second risk assessment would also be beneficial.

All of the above events should be logged and recorded for future placements!

Click here to return to the list of Scenarios.Solution to Scenario 10
This is a common situation that will test your skills in diplomacy. The result of the risk assessment prior to the placement will have highlighted this potential risk. Making the parents aware of this before asking for consent would have avoided the problem. The student's duties should always be explained to all parties concerned before a placement commences.

However, there are two options available to you when presented with this situation. Firstly, it may be worthwhile consulting the mother of the student. Explain that her son is supervised at all times, and that the company has an excellent track record. Point out that the risk assessment undertaken has satisfied you in terms of health and safety regulations, and ask her to reconsider.

Alternatively, you could speak to the student's supervisor and reach a compromise. For example, it could be possible for the student to continue the placement in the factory offices, where the risk of injury would be significantly reduced.

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