An education for the next generation

14 Apr

As the number of 16-24 year olds out of work creeps ever closer to one million, Prime Minister David Cameron has said in an interview that in order to tackle youth unemployment, we need to make changes in the education system to ensure we produce young people with a real qualification that people need in the modern workplace.

Surely at least part of that qualification should involve health and safety?

We at the British Safety Council are doing our bit to educate young people, and last year, 36,000 school children and college pupils passed the British Safety Council’s entry level award in workplace hazard awareness or level 1 award in health and safety at work.

But there have been calls for more to be done and to include health and safety on the curriculum in order to prepare young people and raise awareness of risks before they enter the workplace for the first time.

Anthea Dennis, whose son died during his first week at work, believes schools should ensure young people are prepared before sending them on work experience.

She says: “Unfortunately Daniel didn’t have the opportunity to learn about health and safety at school before he started work, but I definitely think health and safety should be part of the curriculum to prevent another avoidable death of a young person.”

Daniel Dennis, from south Wales was just 17 when he died. He was working for North Eastern Roofing and, having only been in his job for a week, he was asked by his employer to go up onto a roof to fetch a piece of wood. There were skylights on the roof and because it was a sunny day, they were hard to see. The 17-year-old stepped through one of them and fell around 30 feet to his death.

Daniel had received no safety training at all from his employer. “He shouldn’t have been up on the roof anyway but he had no harness or any safety equipment,” says Anthea. “I don’t even think he had an induction.”

As a 17-year-old boy, Daniel was eager to please in his new job and did as he was asked by his employer. “He went up on the roof because he was asked to and he wasn’t scared of heights,” adds Anthea. “When people are young, they’re so enthusiastic and don’t have the necessary experience to think about the risks.

“I think boys in particular have difficulty in saying no if they are asked to do something, so it’s important for them to learn that they can say no if they feel uncomfortable and shouldn’t feel pressured into doing anything.”

Anthea, along with organisations such as the British Safety Council, are campaigning for sensible health and safety. She says: “If we can do our bit to help and raise public awareness of sensible safety and encourage young people to speak up if they feel unsafe, then the world will be a much better place.”

The British Safety Council will be re-launching its award nominated Speak Up, Stay Safe campaign in June, designed to encourage young people to speak up if they have any concerns about their safety and prevent parents suffering a similar tragedy to that of Anthea Dennis.

Visit www.britsafe.org/speakupstaysafe for more details.

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