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Transcript: Young people at work

Welcome to the HSE Podcast

This month we focus on the health and safety of young people who may be entering the workplace for the first time.

I think for people who are new to work its probably important to really avoid horseplay and mucking about.  Everyone likes a joke but you have to be really careful about this sort of thing at work.  Apart from anything else it can be a very quick way of getting sacked.

And HSE Infoline' s Victoria Brady provides the answer to another one of your most popular health and safety questions but first here's a round-up of the latest health and safety news.

New figures show that the number of people being killed at work in Britain fell to a record low last year.  180 people died in workplace incidents down from over 230 in the previous twelve months.  Big falls were recorded in the Construction and Agriculture Sectors, traditionally two of the most dangerous industries and Britain now has one of the best accident records in Europe. 

Have you been told you need to buy a new health and safety law poster?  HSE is looking into reports that some employers are being persuaded to buy copies that they don't need.  Every workplace must display the poster which sets out employees rights and has recently changed to make it easier to understand but despite claims by some salespeople, employers have until 2014 to change to the new poster and do not need one on every notice board.

Consultation has started on a new scheme to register tower cranes.  8 people have been killed in incidents involving tower cranes since 2000 and HSE will be introducing a compulsory registration scheme in April 2010.  Details about the scope of the scheme including which cranes will be covered can still be influenced through the consultation.  You have until the 9th of October to respond.

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Starting work for the very first time can be an exciting but daunting experience for young people. a charity that provides support and advice for young people recently spoke to HSE inspector Norman Macritchie about how to keep safe at work:

Health and safety isn't the most exciting of subjects but in 2007 241 people were killed at work from an accident.  What's more, a quarter of a million injuries were serious enough to be reported. finds out what you need to do to make sure your day at work doesn't result in a trip to casualty.

No-one goes to work really to have an accident.

Norman Macritchie knows more about accidents at work than most.

My job as an inspector involves investigating accidents and meeting people who have been affected by them.  Unfortunately these are not imaginary accidents, these are real accidents that happen to real people.  Not trivial things, these are accidents that can actually change people's whole lives.  For example how would you feel if you had to come home from hospital after an accident knowing that you might never walk again?

Norman says that health and safety at work is everyone's responsibility.

Legally speaking the employer or the person whose in charge of the premises has the main responsibility in the workplace but safety is a team effort so individual managers and employees also have some important duties with respect both for their own safety and that of their colleagues.

Hi I'm Rachel, I'm 22 and I live in Warwickshire.  I'm a senior cabin crew member.  We're issued with a company uniform so we have high visibility jackets to wear when we're outside.  We have ear defenders to protect our hearing as aircraft and ground equipment can be very noisy.  Once we're on the aircraft we have to complete safety equipment checks.  We pass through the cabin and make sure everyone's got their seatbelts fastened.  Tray tables are upright.  Armrests are down.  Seat backs are upright.  We're checking that hand baggage is all safely stored and isn't going to cause injury to anyone.  Your exits and isles are clear and liaise with the other crew members checking on each other all the time.

So how can you ensure you keep safe?  Norman has some suggestions of what to look out for in the workplace:

It pays to be practicable.  For example is the workplace tidy with clean dry floors.  Are dangerous bits of machinery guarded.  This is very important.  Also are the people you're working with competent?  Do you get the feeling that they know what they're doing.  The main killers in the workplace are things like falls from height, workplace transport, electrocution, asbestos.  But you can also get other very nasty conditions which aren't fatal but can be very painful -  back pain, strains, tendonitis associated with manual handling operations.  Its also quite important to think about chemical hazards.  There are some very dangerous chemicals in a workplace which might seem quite mundane.  Things like cleaning fluids or paints or pesticides and of course in the service industries in particular violence can be a bit of an issue.

I'm Jenny, I'm 21 years old and I'm from Walton on Thames in Surrey.  I work as a lifeguard.  Health and safety is really important for my job because essentially that's your entire role as a lifeguard.  You're there to look out for both the staff that work there and more importantly the public who use the swimming pool.  Part of our role is obviously a lifeguard in the swimming pools but another big part of our role is cleaning and checking the chemical levels in the pool so we have special equipment we have to wear when we're doing cleaning or chemical checking.  Cleaning-wise, depending on what products we're using we get heavy duty big gauntlet leather gloves and we have to wear shoes which is very different to often what you wear life guarding because you're walking around the swimming pool a lot in your bare feet.

And health and safety isn't the job of someone else.  Norman says there are things you need to take responsibility for.

Its really important not to operate plant machinery or equipment or drive vehicles while you're under the influence of anything or feeling sleepy for example so watch the hours you work and be careful not to burn the candle at both ends regularly.  I think for people who are new to work its probably important to really avoid horseplay and mucking about.  Everyone likes a joke but you have to be really careful about this sort of thing at work.  Apart from anything else it can be a very quick way of getting sacked.

I think a good thing to point out as well is how we all work to standard operating procedures.

Rachel the air cabin crew member explains that everyone in the company is trained to do tasks in the same way known as standard operating procedures.  It means in a big company where you're working with lots of different people you all know what each other is doing.

We're all working to the same songbook because its such a large company and you're working with people from all over the network its very rare that you will actually work with someone more than three times.

So what should you do if you don't think a health and safety policy is being observed at work?  Here's Norman again to tell you.

Employees have got a duty to report dangerous things that are going on but if you find that you're not getting anywhere with an employer, you could involve the union or you could involve the Health and Safety Executive.  You could phone in and raise an issue with the Health and Safety Executive and we might then go back to the employer with it and follow it up.

So what could happen if health and safety procedures weren't observed at work?  Here's Jenny.

If we didn't observe the health and safety rules we'd be posing a risk to ourselves, to our employer for liability and also to the general public.  The big ones are if you don't get your staff rotations around you don't get .......... you really do start to get sleepy quite quickly and you start missing the important things.  If you're not watching and there's a problem then the consequences can be really serious.

For more information for health and safety at work and details of how to contact the Health and Safety Executive visit

Visit the transcript for this Podcast episode at for more information about young people's health and safety at work.  Now in our regular feature we put HSE Infoline's Victoria Brady to the test by asking her to answer one of your popular health and safety questions?

Hi my name is Victoria Brady, I'm the training manager here at HSE's Infoline and I'm going to answer all your health and safety questions for you.

So how do I report an accident at work and why do I have to?

There are a number of sort of different things you need to report. It comes under a set of regulations called the Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations of 1995.  You will need to report sort of major accidents and there are lists of what you need to report so you need to report for example a dislocation, a fracture.  Anything such as like a penetrating injury to the eye.  You'll also need to report over 3 day injuries so for example if I had an injury at work, if I fell over and maybe sprained my ankle, its not going to be reportable as a major injury but if I took over 3 days off for it then it is going to be reportable.  There's also then dangerous occurrences which is like the toppling over of a lift truck or something of that nature and then reportable diseases so if I contracted occupational asthma from my workplace and had it diagnosed by a doctor, that would need to be reportable so initially there's quite a lot that is reportable and obviously the HSE need to hold statistics on why these accidents are happening and they also need the information so if they want to do an investigation they can.  There are a number of ways you can report the incident.  They all initially get reported to a place called the Incident Contact Centre which takes all the incidents from whatever workplace you work in.  You call fill in information on-line.  You can certainly send it via the post or you can just phone up and make the report over the phone so there are a number of ways you can do that.

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Updated 2012-02-28