Risk management for apprentices

Key considerations for employers when carrying out risk assessments for apprentices

Apprenticeships are a fantastic asset to any business as they bring invaluable skills, boost employee performance and improve staff retention through the provision of formal qualifications and development opportunities. Businesses can employ apprentices at different levels, from school leavers and university graduates, to people who want to further their careers, or change direction completely.

A key part of any apprenticeship is that it is designed by the employer, so it reflects the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours that the business needs.  Employers have the primary responsibility for the health and safety of their apprentice, and they must have undertaken suitable risk assessments in advance. 

Employers need to give their apprentice adequate training and supervision to help them safely perform the job they have hired them for. This includes ensuring that the apprentice works with experienced staff, learns job-specific skills and receives adequate time for training or study during their working week.

Managing risks in different working environments

An employer must think about how accidents and ill health could happen in the workplace and concentrate on real risks – those that are most likely to occur and which will cause the most harm.

As well as protecting their employees, maintaining a good standard of health and safety in the workplace can mean reduced insurance premiums and money saved long term.

Here we outline some key considerations from HSE (Health and Safety Executive) to help your clients manage apprenticeship risks within their business and prevent incidents and claims from occurring.

Key risk management considerations:

  • For low-risk environments, such as an office or shop, everyday risks will mostly be familiar to an apprentice. It’s important for the employer to speak to the apprentice in advance about the potential risks and how these are safely managed to minimise the chances of any incidents occurring.
  • For environments with less familiar risks, such as light assembly or packing facilities, the employer must make sure the apprentice is clear on what they will be doing and what arrangements are in place for managing risks, including induction, training, supervision, site familiarisation, and any protective equipment that might be needed.
  • For higher risk environments such as construction, agriculture or manufacturing, the employer must have identified all the risks involved and explained to the apprentice how these are managed, ensuring that the instruction, training and supervisory arrangements have been properly thought through and are successfully implemented.

Requirements of the employer before the apprentice starts

Before the apprentice embarks on day 1 in the workplace, the employer must:

  • Make sure that the apprentice is covered by risk assessments, and they know what measures have been taken to protect them.
  • Ensure the apprentice understands the information and instructions they need to work safely, and have had any necessary training in advance.
  • Consider the language needs of apprentices who do not speak English well or at all.
  • Check that the apprentice has any occupational qualifications or skills needed for the job.
  • Agree on arrangements for providing/maintaining any personal protective equipment, display screen equipment eyesight tests, and any necessary health surveillance.
  • Agree on arrangements for reporting relevant accidents to the enforcing authority (usually HSE or the local authority).

Further information

For more information about health and safety best practice for businesses including more detailed advice on risk assessments, PPE and training please visit: https://www.hse.gov.uk/guidance/index.htm.