Doesn’t pay to risk it
It’s better to be safe than sorry, reports
EMPLOYERS need to urge their apprentices not to take short-cuts or risks and keep a ‘safety first’ attitude at all times.
Apprentices are also reminded not to try to impress their boss by pushing themselves beyond their limit, either by going beyond their experience or physical ability on the day.
Safe Work Australia figures show that workers aged 15 to 24 years are injured at work more often than any other age-group.
There were 48.8 injuries for every million hours worked, compared with 37 injuries for those aged 45 to 54.
Young workers are most likely to be injured by hitting, being hit, or getting a cut from an object, which accounts for 36 per cent of all injuries.
Group training organisation PEER VEET reports many apprentices work at small to medium enterprises, which mostly have good health and safety systems in place, but often do not have the time or manpower to constantly remind young workers about safety procedures.
Work Health and Safety manager Malcolm Baxter says it has about 450 apprentices in the electrical, plumbing, data communications and refrigeration and airconditioning fields hosted out to smaller businesses that by the nature of the work can be a high-risk environment.
He is calling on employers to ensure safety procedures are kept up-to-date, to supervise apprentices appropriately, and remind them no work should be carried out unsupervised or unlicensed.
“Our injury rate is relatively low – most injuries we have are small and minor, cuts and scrapes. Get a couple of stitches and back to work,” he says.
“(However), there is a risk out there to apprentices because they are young, predominantly young males . . . who think they are bullet-proof and generally known as risktakers.
“The challenge for their supervisor is to take the enthusiasm but make sure they don’t put themselves at risk.
“There are these guys who will take a short-cut and cause injury, and that’s what we’re trying to stamp out.”
He says apprentices who achieve their competencies quickly can begin to feel they are up to the task to work unsupervised or take short-cuts that can lead to injury.
They also may want to prove themselves to their host employer by pushing themselves, such as in hot weather when they should be taking more frequent drink and rest breaks.
“Apprentices perceive if they do (take breaks or slow down), the host employer won’t like it,” Baxter says.
“They might not look after themselves from a healthy lifestyle perspective . . . then fatigue hits them, leaving them at risk of injury.”
Apprentices also are cautioned against carrying out any work unsupervised, such as work for friends out of hours, before they become qualified.
APPRENTICES must speak up if they feel they are in a dangerous situation and let qualified tradespeople or their boss decide how to continue.
That is the advice of Mike Telford, managing director of CMA Electrical and Data, who cannot stress enough how safety is the most important thing on work sites.
“All our staff – apprentices and tradesmen – are empowered with the ability to stop whatever they are doing if they don’t think it’s safe until they have contacted us,” Telford says.
He says there is regularly pressure from clients to get the job done quickly.
“(But) if you think it’s unsafe, or even if you’re not sure – ask,” he says.
“We see situations where safety is lip service, to ‘get the job done, son’, and with apprentices, they don’t always
SAFETY FIRST: Mike Telford with third year electrician apprentice, Tom Blight. Picture:
KERYN STEVENS feel they can say things.
“When a client will not change their requirements, there’s fines when you don’t get the job done, so everyone goes really hard and that’s when accidents happen.
“That’s why we try to make sure – see something, say something, do something.
“It’s not worth the job for you to get hurt.”
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