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Engaging safely with work experience arrangements | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

In brief

Education providers must ensure that they identify, manage and allocate risk when conducting risk assessments for work experience arrangements.


Work experience arrangements provide students the opportunity to test their skills, interests and allow them to be introduced to the world of work, with the support of teachers.

The key to a successful work experience is empowering young people to understand their rights and responsibilities in a workplace while awakening their awareness of hazards and their obligation to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

However, adults in the workplace and at school remain responsible for ensuring safety as far as reasonably practicable. Education providers who facilitate work experiences must engage actively in risk identification and management, and the vetting of work experience providers to ensure risks are effectively managed and that students will be appropriately supervised, and given appropriate work to do.

In this article, we outline key obligations and recommended risk management practices to safeguard your institution.

So, whose responsibility is it anyway?

Under the Education (Work Experience) Act 1996 (Qld) section 7, the ultimate responsibility for determining whether a proposed employer is a suitable work experience provider lies with the Principal or a delegated officer of the school. This decision requires a careful consideration of the risks associated with the placement concerning the specific provider.

Recommended approach to risk management

To manage risks effectively, the Department of Education’s Work experience placements for school students procedure v6.8 suggests the following risk assessment activities:

  • Engaging in conversations or workplace visits with the workplace provider to discuss the health and safety practices in place.

  • Conducting a work experience induction program for students before commencing their placement.

  • Implementing workplace health and safety processes developed by the school for proposed workplace activities.

  • Requesting health and safety/risk assessment documentation from the workplace provider to support proposed workplace activities.

These are the foundation blocks for your institutions’ risk management approach. There are several further actions to consider implementing to ensure the fulfillment of your duties. For example:

  • Entering into a work experience agreement between the employer, the student, and the student’s family can help clarify responsibilities and expectations during the placement.

  • Ensuring that the employers’ workers’ compensation insurance covers the student is essential to provide financial protection in case of any injuries or accidents during the work experience.

Key considerations for risk assessments

In most cases, it may be appropriate to delegate risk assessments of workplace hazards to the individual work experience provider.

However, it is crucial to remember that this does not absolve your duty. You must ensure that the delegated risk assessment is accurate and appropriate to the circumstances of the work experience placement, that it is regularly reviewed and that work experience providers understand their obligations.

When determining whether risk assessments can be delegated, the following factors should be taken into account:

  • Does the provider have appropriate health and safety documentation, including onboarding, policies and procedures, particularly around child safety?

  • Does the provider have established systems for consulting with its workforce on safety, including for the reporting of hazards?

  • Does the provider conduct a specific risk assessment for having work experience participants at the workplace, and is there an induction program for them?

  • Has the proposed provider hosted students before? How successful was that engagement? Reviews should be done after each engagement to assess success and record matters in the review for the next risk assessment, should the provider take students in future.

  • Can you request any safety records the provider might have, either generally or related to past work experience participants?

  • Can you confirm that the workplace is adequately staffed to provide adequate supervision for the work experience participant?

  • If you haven’t worked with the employer before, can you seek feedback from other schools or that have had students in work experience placements at the workplace?

Non-delegable risks

Certain risks cannot be allocated to the provider and must be addressed before the student starts the placement. These may include student behaviour and specific training requirements to prepare students for safe engagement in the workplace.

Minimising exposure and ensuring safety

To minimise exposure to risks and ensure a safe work experience environment for students, institutions can take the following actions:

  • Develop a documented policy or procedure outlining a provider’s suitability criteria for work experience.

  • Conduct risk assessments for matters like student behaviour for work experience placements.

  • Provide students with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) based on risk assessments. Provide them with training in how to use the equipment and the consequences if they do not use the equipment correctly (e.g. the placement will end, they will be returned to school, they may face disciplinary action, they may be injured or injure others). Consult with providers on risk assessments, supervision, and child safeguarding procedures. Ask for child safety checks.

  • Conduct site assessments in collaboration with the provider and ensure student-specific risks are accounted for in risk assessments.

  • Empower students and providers to refuse work or placements if they feel unsafe.

  • Encourage students to conduct their own risk assessments, wear PPE, and report unsafe conditions.

  • Ensure that students’ placements are adequately insured by conferring with insurers, WorkCover, and placement providers.

  • Open communication with providers, both before and after the placement, can foster a safe and productive work experience environment and pave the way for future successful placements.

By proactively managing risks and taking necessary precautions, your institution can provide valuable work experience opportunities while prioritising the safety and well-being of students.


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