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Youngsters at risk of having possible work accident

Throwing eggs and flour over your mates has always been the traditional way of celebrating the end of school but when the fun is over, how do teenagers survive in the big wide world of employment?

As you get older, you soon realise that school has got to be one of the greatest times in your life and the only time when you can be totally carefree. Scrounging off your parents is the norm and having exciting dilemmas such as, 'will Jenny go out with me' and 'what shall I wear to the party on Friday night?' keeps you on your toes.

It really does feel like years away when you have to worry about that gas bill that's been sitting on the welcome mat for the last week, most probably with a final warning written in red capital letters across the top of the page.

But eventually the bill has to be paid and the only way to do it is with a salary. For school leavers, the prospect of getting a job can be quite daunting; it's a big world out there and finding a job can be incredibly tough.

The thought of starting a new job can be exciting and quite scary at the same time; there are new people to get used to, new equipment to familiarise yourself with and a new boss to try and impress. Younger people with limited skills can be quite vulnerable in this environment and are more likely to have a work accident than an older employee with years of experience behind them.

Young adults will enter their chosen profession through a range of different ways including apprenticeships, work experience, or simply climbing from the bottom of the company's ladder. Whichever way it is, everybody starts from scratch.

Most teenagers will start preparing for their internship at the end of school and make the most of the schools resources and teachers guidance. One such youngster was Robert Hayward. At just 16 he secured his plans of progressing into the building trade when he began his apprenticeship in 2004 with Aztec Screeding.

Like most young starters, Robert was extremely keen to help out on the building sites and when his boss offered him the opportunity of working on the new Wembley Stadium project, he jumped at the chance.

But on site there was major safety hazard. A safety grille had not been fitted to the cement mixer and unknown to Robert, he continued to pour cement into the machine. Without the grille there to cover the mechanisms, the speed of the mixer dragged his hand into the machinery and caused a serious personal injury. The severity of the hand injury meant Robert had to have three of his fingers amputated.

Health and Safety Executive, Simon Hester, said the accident at work could have been avoided if Mr Haywood was properly supervised.

He said, "The risks associated when employing young people are well known. Managers of young people should take into account their inexperience and possible lack of awareness in assessing potential dangers."

Roberts's boss, Ian Goom, was charged under Health & Safety regulations in connection with Mr Haywood's serious personal injuries and fined 3,000 after pleading guilty before the City of London Magistrates' Court.

This case is just one example of the estimated 1.6 million accidents occurring in the workplace each year, costing the industry 700 million in personal injury compensation.

To avoid such work accidents involving young people, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has introduced a useful guide for young professionals called Wiseup2work. The initiative provides a free online resource centre for teenagers preparing to enter work for the first time after leaving school.

IOSH wants teachers, business leaders and youth workers to take a vital role in the development of young people and prepare them for avoiding possible work accidents. IOSH highlights the fact that young people have fewer skills and lack understanding of the workplace and may also lack good social skills and confidence when questioning something they are unsure of.

Wiseup2work has already been used in many schools to educate young people and has proved to be popular amongst teachers.

Liz Slee, teacher of skills for life at Gateway College in Leicester, said, "The real stories had a big reaction, some students were quite horrified by what had happened to other students in their first jobs. The learning tools promoted some really interesting discussions about what situations they could face at work."

Neil Budworth, President of the IOSH said, "Young people need to have a real understanding of risk before they start working, otherwise they don't stand a chance. This is such an important issue, we need to get the country talking about it."

The health and safety of college leavers is also highlighted by the IOSH, as many students receiving their A Level results will be deciding whether to go straight into work or carry on with their studies and eventually go to university.

The growing number of students wanting to avoid the debts that come hand in hand with university means that there is an increasing number of college leavers wanting to get straight into their chosen profession and train from the bottom.

To ensure college leavers and their employers are fully covered against the possibility of work accident compensation claims, safety measurements and training should be provided for new employees, as they are most likely to suffer serious personal injury.

But just as trainees might be getting used to their new role within a company, many will be reaching the legal drinking age of 18 and could still risk a number of possible work accidents if out on the town the night before.

Recent studies have found that accidents at work could also be caused by staff working under the influence of alcohol, especially younger members of staff who have just turned 18 and are enjoying going out most nights to show off their ID.

Working whilst intoxicated is just one of the many possible causes for accidents in the workplace and employers should do their best to guard against other possible risk factors at work. If an employer made the health and safety of his staff a key priority, the number of work accidents could possibly be reduced along with the number of personal injury compensation claims being made.

In recent years, companies have been reinventing their safety guidelines to protect young employees against potential dangers in the workplace. The new measurements being put in place will allow trainees to have a better start in their chosen career and give them the opportunity to learn and develop new skills which they could someday teach other new starters.

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