How to introduce a health and safety apprenticeship to the workplace

Here, Chris Pendrey of Actavo Direct explains how to introduce a health and safety apprenticeship to your workplace.

With over 600,000 workplace injuries recorded in 2016/17, businesses should consider ways to improve internal HSE standards and the potential benefits of employing a dedicated safety professional.

Despite common misconceptions, it’s not just building sites that pose risks to their employees, with slips, trips and falls the biggest the biggest cause of injury in the workplace. These types of accident can happen in just about any setting.

Injured employees may have to take time off to recover. This can not only impact overall productivity but also have a negative impact on staff morale as other employees find themselves taking on additional tasks.

However, last year the Institute for Apprenticeships took a positive step to combat the risk of workplace injury, launching a health and safety course.

Chris Pendrey, SHEQ Manager at Actavo Direct, outlines how you can make the scheme work for your business.

The right scheme for you

Hiring an apprentice requires extra provisions and resources compared with typical full-time staff, but these have their benefits.

Training an apprentice allows you to help a worker take their first steps in a career path, with your business benefiting from training someone fresh and enthusiastic to the new world of work. Not only can you teach your new recruit to understand exactly how your company works, you can also help them progress and excel in a full-time role once they’ve completed the scheme.

Before you can onboard an apprentice though, you need to choose a relevant apprenticeship scheme and training provider to complete the assessment and certification part of the course.

Using the government database can be a good place to start in your search for available apprenticeships. Businesses can search keywords to find a relevant scheme that fits their company and each scheme is listed alongside authorised training bodies which, provide the assessment.

Work with your apprentice to find the right course for them

Another consideration before beginning an apprenticeship scheme is how to fund the training. As of May 2017, apprenticeship funding rules changed, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with what you’ll be expected to pay.

Smaller businesses (with an annual payroll of less than £3 million) receive funding for 100 per cent of the training for apprentices aged 16-18 and are only required to contribute 10 per cent of the funding for those aged 19 and over.

Define the course

Hiring an apprentice means committing to giving them the skills needed to complete their assessment and training them to excel in their role.

However, it’s not just your new recruit who benefits from the relationship, with businesses reporting an increase in productivity and quality of their product or service by hiring an apprentice.

See also: The Small Business guide to HR

So, how can you make the most of your relationship? Outlining a clear plan for the apprenticeship is important for both the candidate and business. It’ll ensure you provide the right knowledge for them to pass the assessment and define how they’ll add value to the company.

Typical tasks for a health and safety apprentice include preparing documentation and conducting workplace risk assessments to spot dangerous environments or working practices.

Tasks like these not only equip the candidate with transferable skills but benefit the business by teaching the apprentice to work alongside existing workers and follow company best practice.

As the scheme progresses, continue to outline your expectations. This doesn’t mean assessing their every move, but simply ensuring apprentices know what’s expected of them and what they’ll be learning in the coming months.

“Businesses report an increase in quality of their product or service by hiring an apprentice”

This also helps the business as it enables you to schedule training with upcoming projects to make sure they’re always adding value to the company.

Help with hiring

Finding the right candidate can be a huge boost for any business, bringing a fresh injection of passion and excitement to learn. However, with the apprenticeship levy only introduced last year – which provides funding for small businesses to take on an apprentice – the competition for the best talent will only become greater.

This is where a proactive plan can help you stand out from the crowd. Employers must sign an apprenticeship agreement and commitment statement with the candidate before offering a contract. So, use the statement to show how you’ll nurture their progression and highlight the opportunities you can offer them.

When it comes to finding the right candidate, there are plenty of places to advertise online, including job boards and school leaver websites. There’s even an online government tool dedicated to matching employers with the right aspiring apprentices.

Health and safety is an important role, so finding a candidate with the right skills to excel is vital. Typical key traits to consider are strong communication skills, so they can deliver key safety messages to staff effectively and create clear documents and notes.

A proactive nature and punctuality are also key to success in the role, as much of the position requires an ability to respond to incidents in a careful and timely way for maximum damage limitation.

Next steps

Employers hiring an apprentice should have a clear idea of where they fit into the business, including what responsibilities they’ll undertake now and in the future. So, once the right candidate has been found, the next step is to decide how their time will be allocated.

Apprenticeships in England require 20 per cent of the candidate’s time to be spent on off-the-job training. This includes learning opportunities like the teaching of theory, shadowing a senior worker or writing assignments.

Decide how their off-the-job time will be most valuable and ask how they prefer to learn. If they enjoy independent learning, consider giving them one afternoon off per week to complete their studies.

Learning and development are crucial in an apprenticeship. So, observe them in the workplace and ensure you’re providing regular, constructive feedback.

“Decide how their off-the-job time will be most valuable and ask how they prefer to learn”

Feedback is not a one-way street, either. Let them know you’re open to hearing their thoughts, on both you as an employer and for the scheme. Look at ways to improve your apprenticeship offering – including training styles and how much one-to-one time the apprentice receives, based on the information you get.

This will not only help you retain the best staff but also offer a more appealing scheme to new talent in the future.