Taking a STEP in the right direction

Vocational colleges working in partnership with HSE to raise awareness of slip and trip hazards in the workplace

Slips and trips are the most common of workplace hazards and make up over a third of all major injuries. In 2008/09 over 10,000 workers suffered a serious injury because of a slip or trip last year. Three leading vocational colleges in the UK have teamed up with HSE to pilot the use of the Slips and Trips E-learning Package (STEP) with vocational students.

STEP is an interactive e-learning course that explains what potential slip and trip hazards to look for and what simple, cost effective measures could help reduce them.

Hugh Baird logo

Hugh Baird College on Merseyside is a tertiary college in South Sefton and the largest provider of education and vocational skills in the area with over 6000 students enrolled. The College's hospitality and catering courses already contained a compulsory health and safety training module, but Hugh Baird wanted to find an easy and practical way to prepare its students for the risks they may face in the industry.

STEP has only recently been introduced into the curriculum, but the college view is that it is already helping prepare students to work safely in their future careers, with many on course to achieve a top grade in their health and safety assignment.

Dr Jette Burford, Hugh Baird Principal said: "The trial with our catering students seems to have been a great success and we are now looking at the possibility of using the STEP tool in other vocational areas such as our health and social care, hairdressing and beauty therapy and motor vehicle maintenance courses."

"It's about preparing students for the often harsh realities of a real work environment and getting them to ensure they put their safety and that of their work colleagues first."

Meanwhile, over the Welsh border, Coleg Menai, as one of the main providers of vocational training and further education in North Wales, was quick to realise the benefits of using the Slips and Trips E-Learning package (STEP), with their vocational students.

Coleg Menai logo

Coleg Menai campus is in the University City of Bangor with specialised campuses in Parc Menai, Llangefni and Caernarfon. The number of students currently stands at over 9,000 with 600 staff. In their search for new and innovative ways to support student development, promote best practice, raise awareness and embed key messages about hazards in the workplace, the college have introduced STEP as part of the vocational curriculum, in particular, for students following career paths into Health and Social Care and Catering and Hospitality.

The college sees STEP as a valuable teaching aid and was keen to maximise the benefits of using it within the vocational teaching environment. STEP has been uploaded onto 'moodle', the college's intranet teaching system. This allows staff to familiarise themselves with STEP.

Lesley Tipping, Service Industries Faculty Director at the college, said, "Coleg Menai is committed to giving our students the best start in their chosen career path. Ensuring our vocational students are fully aware of the hazards they may encounter when they enter the workplace is a very important part of this. Slips and trips remain a very real issue for those working in the service industries and STEP presents key information in a very user-friendly format."

Level 1 students now study the introductory STEP section as part of their induction, whilst Level 3 students study the intermediate section, prior to undertaking a work placement. STEP has proved successful and popular due to its interactive format and user-friendly structure. The college has now extended its use to NVQ students of all ages, many of whom may have been in the workplace for a number of years.

David Jones, one of the NVQ students who completed both modules said, "I enjoyed working through STEP, the content was relevant, it was well laid out and the video clips and illustrations gave a sense of context"

Using the 'Health Sector package', Gail Hopkins, Programme Leader for Health and Social Care completed STEP with her Level 1 students.

"Delivering STEP as a workshop meant that we could work through the introductory level of the health care section at our own pace. The students found that by discussing what they had just seen, as a group, was beneficial and gave them the opportunity to develop their understanding of workplace hazards".

In addition, Coleg Menai's own catering staff have also completed the Catering and Hospitality package on STEP, further emphasising how versatile and user friendly STEP is as a training tool in raising awareness of risk and the hazards associated with slips and trips in the workplace. Further north, Reid Kerr College, located in Paisley, offers an extensive range of vocational courses in a variety of sectors to over 20,000 students from both its local communities and to international students.

Reid Kerr logo

Reid Kerr was keen to use STEP within the vocational teaching environment and uploaded the material onto the college's intranet system. This allows staff who use STEP to keep track of which students have completed either the introductory or the intermediate levels. They also developed their own set of multiple-choice tests, which help validate successful completion of the modules.

Ann Usher, Head of Section in the School of Life Sciences at the college, said, "Slips and trips are a common problem in many workplaces, including the health and social care sector. STEP presents key information on the sort of hazards and risks our students will encounter in an easy to understand format".

Using the 'Health Sector' package Kate Moran, Health Care Lecturer delivered STEP with her Level 1 students. "The students found that STEP broke down key information into bite-size chunks. They liked the video clips and the interactive aspects, like the hazard spotting exercises. I worked through the package with the students as a group and it helped create good discussion about hazards in the workplace."

STEP has proved both successful and popular as a group exercise, due to its interactive and user-friendly format. Reid Kerr intend to expand the use of STEP to vocational students in both Catering and the Construction Trades from September 2010. STEP has a 'general' section, which is suitable for, electricians and joiners who may have to work in a variety of different environments.

Lecturer Lynn Fyfe, said "Where English isn't a first language, STEP's video clips and pictures help to demonstrate slip and trip hazards in the workplace and simple steps to manage these risks.

Are you a further education college or vocational training provider looking to raise awareness of slip and trip hazards in the workplace with your staff and students?

Alternatively, for further information or to give us some feedback on how you have used STEP, contact: Nick.Johnson@hse.gov.uk.