Hiring an apprentice is a great way of bringing new talent into your business. Apprentices are both keen to learn and enthusiastic about your industry and with the right training they can become valuable employees for the long term. The majority of apprentices are aged between 16 and 24 and whilst there are adult apprentices too, it is the younger apprentices, aged 18 and below who you need to pay close attention to when it comes to health and safety.
Apprentices aged under 18 are considered in the same light as other young workers and young workers have specific health and safety guidelines relevant to their work. As an employer of young people you have to ensure and are responsible for guaranteeing your young employees are not exposed to risk because of:
- Their lack of experience
- Their lack of maturity
- Their unawareness of the risks and potential risks in your workplace
Before deciding whether you can take on an apprentice it is important to consider some of the risks in your workplace including:
- The layout and fitting-out of your space – is there a safe place for your apprentice to work?
- The equipment they may be required to use
- The organisation and processes within your work
- The level of health and safety training you will be able to provide
- The risks specific to your industry such as working at height, lifting and carrying or use of chemicals
Young people employed in your business as apprentices have the same rights as employees but may need to be handled differently.
There are some workplaces in which equipment is for use by over 18s only for example and even with the right training your apprentice is not allowed to use this equipment. There are many other things you may need to consider dependent on your business from whether your young employee is ready to work in environments with lead and lead processes to their electrical safety and what role within a manufacturing environment is suitable and safe.
In time your apprentice will learn the ins and outs of your business but it has to be done at a careful and safe level. You have to be respectful of their eagerness to learn whilst also complying with your own in-house risk assessments as well as complying with health and safety law.
Apprentice Health and Safety Responsibility
It is important to remember that your apprentice also has a responsibility to protect their own health and safety in the workplace. You should provide adequate and regular training and your apprentice also has a responsibility to ensure they understand and are aware of all training and its importance for their success within your firm.
Choosing to bring an apprentice into your business is a hugely positive move. You get the benefit of someone who has specifically chosen your industry and is enthusiastic to learn everything they can about it. This enthusiasm can be catching but it is also important to ensure all young workers are only performing tasks they are legally covered to do.