Avoid work experience pitfalls

We're all guilty of it - providing work experience opportunities for a school student so that they get valuable 'hands-on' experience.

We keep it casual and no-one worries too much about what the student is getting up to or the internal procedures they might not be following. As it turns out, there are some serious risks with this approach.

Recently a metal fabrication firm in NSW provided work experience to a 15 year old student.

Instead of undergoing the longer safety induction training which is provided for company employees, the boy was given shorter 'visitors' training.

No proper supervision was in place and the boy was found welding without adequate eye protection.

He suffered flash burns to his eyes, causing 75% loss of vision. The company was fined $240,000 for a breach of safety.

The issue here for employers is that the decision makes it clear that young, inexperienced students lack the maturity of a normal worker and are therefore at a greater risk of injury.

Employers must anticipate and structure work experience to provide "the most stringent industrial protections and safeguards".

Every year senior school students benefit from the opportunities work experience can provide.

It is a fantastic public service, but as this case shows, proper planning and safety observence is paramount.

By Anthony Kelly, Partner

This article was originally published in The Stock Journal on Thursday 10 November 2016

Practice Area: Employment

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