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How best to communicate health and safety messages to young learners in vocational education and training

A number of industries are known to be at high risk from occupational Long Latency Diseases (LLD), including construction, engineering, plumbing, stonemasonry, quarry and foundry work. Recognising that the learners of today are the workers of tomorrow, the HSE has identified young learners in Vocational Education and Training (VET) as a key target group for reducing the incidence of LLD in some of these industries. The purpose of this research was to help the HSE improve its communications with relevant young learners to help raise awareness of risks, change attitudes and behaviours and to embed good practice about appropriate control measures.

While young learners recognise the importance of Health and Safety (H&S) information, there are a number of challenges around successfully communicating the risks of LLD. These include the complexity of LLD and a wide lack of clarity about what constitutes LLD and how they can be prevented. There are also challenges with translating what young learners learn in the classroom into practice on site because of the influence of more experienced colleagues and the pressures of resources and time. Communicating H&S messages more effectively will require greater clarity among wider stakeholders about the nature and risks of LLD. Communications could also be aided by clear, concise, visually engaging communication tools. The delivery of H&S messages by trusted messengers with experience in a young learner’s chosen vocation is beneficial as is focusing information towards more junior or ‘new’ learners not yet overwhelmed by detail on Health and Safety.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-06-03