Protecting placement students from accidents at work

With increasing numbers of students seeking placement years and internships, this can be a great way to get new talent into the business in addition to providing affordable and flexible recruitment solutions. Through implementing placement programmes it is possible to employ candidates from top universities, offering them the chance to progress in the business after completing their studies.

However, with increased safety pressures from educational institutions, health and safety becomes paramount, with the business taking on increased responsibility. With 1.3 million people suffering from workplace related accidents and illnesses in 2017 alone, businesses must make a conscious effort to reduce risks of injury. This can make placement students feel safe and secure as well as saving the business time and money in the long run through sick leave and claims. This is of paramount importance when it comes to placement students who may not have previous experience in a work environment or knowledge of how to behave safely. Here are some key ways to ensure safe working for placement students.

Firstly, it is important to recognise the types of hazards that could potentially result in injury or accident. There are typically six categories of workplace risks that might be applicable:

  1. General safety – This refers to any risk that relates to the general safety of people in a workplace. This can include trip hazards in an office, low hanging fixtures or unsafe equipment.
  2. Organisational – Organisational risks are extremely important as they can sometimes be more difficult to define. This can include risks such as bullying, stress or fatigue.
  3. Chemical – Potential chemical risks are caused by the exposure to harmful chemicals such as gas, liquid or solids.
  4. Physical – Risks relating to particularly harsh conditions such as extreme temperatures, loud noises or toxic smells.
  5. Biological – This refers to risks relating to any exposure to organic matter such as mould or bodily fluids that could damage the health of employees.
  6. Ergonomic – Risks relating to office equipment that isn’t designed well or is faulty e.g chairs or desks.

These risks can be avoided by remaining vigilant in the workplace and carrying out regular checks to ensure that the environment is fit for working. Additionally, as an employer it is important to implement safety procedures that protect employees from increased risks.

Health and safety procedures

Achieving a high standard of health and safety performance is an integral part of business performance and is a fundamental legal requirement. Subsequently, businesses must ensure to protect employees at all times through implementing strong and effective health and safety procedures. This ensures that employees are educated in safety procedures for the workplace, which is especially important when employing more inexperienced junior staff such as placement students.

It is therefore important to maintain employee involvement and consultation as employees are also responsible for the implementation of safety procedures. This must occur at all levels of the organisation in order to be effective including CEOs, management and interns.

This can be achieved through undertaking a thorough check and risk assessment of the workplace, taking into account the possible risk factors outlined above. It is then the businesses responsibility to implement any additional health and safety requirement as well as educating staff in safety procedures. Schedule specific health and safety training sessions for existing and new staff. If you are employing a group of placement students, consider an initial welcome week that involves safety training. One on one sessions are also appropriate when employing singular placement students. During health and safety training it is useful to provide printed documents that include all safety requirements as well as behaviour expected from staff to ensure safe working.

If changes are made to health and safety procedures, additional training should be given.

Personal care

Setting out guidelines and expected practice can help educate the placement student employee and well as set out what is appropriate at work. This can be encouraged by supporting a positive work-life balance to avoid stress or fatigue as well as promoting positive office behaviours such as teamwork, healthy meals and full lunch breaks. A dress code could also be put into place to avoid any injuries or accidents due to inappropriate attire. This will be particularly relevant to placement students who might not have had a job in the past and might not be aware of what constitutes and sensible dress.

Regular reviews

It is important to recognise that as a business changes, grows and employs new people, the health and safety needs and requirements could change. In order to keep up with these changes, a business must regularly review health and safety procedures to ensure that they adhere to current business practice.

What to do in the event of an accident

Firstly, it is crucial that employers are open and honest with management in the event of an accident or injury as this can help resolve the matter as quickly as possibly. This can be encouraged by arranging regular one on meetings and reviews where the employee is encouraged to share their thoughts with management.

The details of what happened and when need to then be correctly recorded in the business accident book. If no one is on hand to write them in the book, the details should be recorded and given to the manager whilst also keeping another copy safe, for reference.Training staff in this procedure is essential as a manager might not be around when the accident happens.

Even if the resulting injuries don’t seem too bad, it is still a good idea for employees to seek medical attention. Not all injuries can be seen immediately and it will help prevent problems occurring further down the line. The doctor can provide a record of the persons injuries which need to be passed on to the employer (this will also come in handy if the student needs to claim for compensation). Once the person has received the relevant medical attention, the employer needs to be informed of the situation and, if necessary, given any paperwork or letters the doctors provide.

If the resulting injuries are significant enough to stop the placement student from being able to work, they will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay which will cover them for up to 28 weeks, with the potential for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit in addition. There will also be the option to create a claim against the employer for compensation, if the hazard wasn’t clearly labelled and the accident could have been prevented. In this case, students should seek external legal advice on making an accident at work compensation claim. More information on the steps to take and common questions asked is available at If the injuries force the employee to take time out of work, starting with fewer hours or doing light jobs can be a good way to get back in to the routine without pushing themselves to make the injuries worse again.

These accidents can largely be prevented by putting appropriate procedures in place, which is why it is vital to ensure health and safety procedures meet the highest standards possible.