Tag Archives: Young workers

The Power of the Spoken Word

27 Oct

As a writer, you can sometimes forget the power of speech.

This was brought to my attention on Tuesday. Matthew Holder, head of campaigns and engagement, and I presented to a group of apprentices at Kier Building Maintenance in London as part of the European Health and Safety Week.

We were joined by young workers aged 17-26 who were working in gas, electricity, engineering and plumbing. All boys, some had just finished their apprentices, while others were mere weeks into them.

Our presentation focused on engaging the young workers on workplace health and safety. To do this, we gave them examples of how they take responsibility for their safety in their everyday lives. They already look after themselves and their friends on the football pitch, at a nightclub, on holiday. It gave us a good base to talk about attitude and behaviour in the workplace and how it really does have a positive impact on safety.

“We wanted to talk to the apprentices on their level, and hear their ideas of what makes good health and safety at work happen. They shared their ideas and knowledge with us, which was good for us to hear firsthand and great for Kier to know how their training is progressing,” said Matthew after the event.

We also talked about our young worker campaign, Speak Up, Stay Safe, and how that message is at the heart of good health and safety. By speaking to their supervisors, their friends, their family, their mentors, young people can make that first important step to staying safe at work. And we assured them the law was on their side.

This was backed up by the second presentation of the morning. John Callaghan, a Kier health and safety adviser, echoed our message: “If you feel there is something wrong, there usually is – so say something.”

Hearing Matthew and I talk, ask and answer questions on the issues did get them thinking. But watching and listening to the video of Barbara Burke, mother of Steven Burke, who tragically died when he fell from a scaffold at work when he was just 17, clearly got them to consider the terrible consequences of poorly managed workplace health and safety. No one wants those same words to come out of their mother’s mouth. As a reality check and an added kick to the importance of what we were saying, it hit home.

And sometimes that’s it: speaking. We’ve got to take every opportunity we can to talk to young people and give them the chance to be heard. That means everyone: the British Safety Council, employers and colleagues.

Because young people will only use our message – Speak Up, Stay Safe – if there is someone there to listen.

 

Many thanks to Kier Building Maintenance for the invitation. If you would like us to come and talk to your apprentices or young workers, please get in touch.

“I just wanted to express my sincere gratitude for all the hard work you put into making yesterday’s talk a success. I must say I was much impressed with the way everything went. The talk was very relevant and informative and I really liked it because it was very interactive.”

Judith Bilson, health and safety adviser, Kier Islington Ltd.

For more information on Speak Up, Stay Safe please visit www.youtube.com/speakupstaysafe

 

 

 

“I want to be a…”

15 Aug

At the end of the month, you’re going to be reading in Safety Management about the successful relaunch of our Speak Up, Stay Safe campaign.

Big message

On a sunny day at the beginning of August, we set up stall at the Underage Festival in Victoria Park, east London. We were bombarded with young visitors for eight hours who wanted to talk to us about what we were doing and the movement we were starting. They also had the chance to star in our Polaroid Wall of Fame by having their photos taken, signing them and adding them to the wall in a pledge to get stuck into the campaign and follow us on our sites on Twitter and Facebook. Visitors could also get their hands on guitar plectrums, mirrors, badges and postcards, all with our cool design which had been chosen from those created by young people who attended our Youth Action Day in May.

We talked to the teenagers, ranging in ages from 13-17 about their work experience, what they wanted to work in, study or at least have a go at.

Young people crowd in to get their hands on Speak Up, Stay Safe freebies

“I want to be a vet.”

“He’s going to study graphic design.”

“I’ve already worked two years in a restaurant.”

“I tried working at a stable for work experience, but want to be a dentist.”

“I work in a shop every weekend.”

These kids were proud to have a job or at least know what they were going to aim for in life. If they didn’t know, they were still keen even thinking about the world of work. The older ones among us might grumble on about how kids can’t wait to grow up these days…

But I had so many conversations with young people who were excited to talk about work, their work experience, or what they wanted to do after school/college/university.

I made them talk about injuries or risks at work and talked to them about how they look after each other at festivals and out and about: that, it’s taking that attitude into the workplace, so that they keep themselves and others safe.

They were up for it, and some showed their energy and creativity by entering our competition. They had to take some of our goodies and use them in a photo or video to somehow get our campaign message across. One girl covered herself in our top tips card to emphasise the point…

Getting into the campaign
 
 

The point I got from it all was the pride and dedication a lot of these kids already have to their future careers and the notion of staying safe in them. That’s not to say these future workers will never come unstuck in their workplaces, but if they think back to 2011 and that hot day in Victoria Park, they might just remember the rule:

SPEAK UP, STAY SAFE.

 

Landscaping a safe working future

12 Jul

Hampton Court: the scene of ghostly tales, royal spirits and an English country garden which was built by young, talented and dedicated apprentices who are going for gold.

 

At the cottgae which was built by the apprentices

Team UK will be competing in World Skills, which takes place in London this October. Billed as the ‘Skills Olympics’, it is the largest international skills competition in the world and from 4-8 October Team UK will compete against 1,000 other hopefuls from over 50 countries/regions. The UK is entering competitors in 37 skills ranging from cooking and hairdressing to electrical installation and bricklaying.

I had the opportunity to meet some of the trainers and apprentices who are getting nearer to competing for those gold medals. They were at the Hampton Court Flower Show showcasing their garden, which had been designed by television presenter and garden designer Chris Beardshaw. He worked with apprentices and trainers in the skills of landscape gardening, bricklaying,and dry stone walling, who all came together at Hampton Court three weeks prior to the show opening to build, landscape and plant their garden.

I’m not saying this because I got to go on the garden and interview them – I’m saying it because it’s true: their garden, The Stockman’s Retreat, was the best. It was visually stunning, with a river running through and a naturalistic pond surrounded by flowers, plants and grasses; and, in the background, sat a cottage, with a path leading to an English meadow. It was the only garden the Duchess of Cornwall had wanted to walk around when she made her visit to the show last week.

The apprentices are a bright, enthusiastic bunch of young people. They started their crafts young, learned to love them and became good at them. Now they are able to display what they can do to the world. And to be able to show safe working practices is important and taught to them from the beginning. At World Skills, losing points for health and safety can mean the difference between gold and silver.

One of trainers told me: “Young people do need more guidance; coming straight from school they are susceptible to all sorts of things and accidents. They are not quite aware; they have been living in a bubble for 15 years.”

Talking to these young people there was a sense of the sponge mentality: they had always wanted to absorb information and best practice; that included health and safety guidance.

The idea that young people don’t have the confidence to speak up is one the British Safety Council works to break through, encouraging young people to voice concerns and worries with employers, friends and family if they feel they are unsafe.

The relationship between employer and worker, or in this case, trainer and apprentice was one which really shone through in my chats at Hampton Court; that it had to be one of mutual trust and understanding. One trainer explained: “My apprentices respond positively to suggestions and ways of working. The respect between trainer and trainee is very much two ways. I could say to my guy, ‘What about trying something this way?’ I’d explain it, go through it, and maybe even demonstrate it. He would have a go at that, but if it didn’t work for him, he’d speak up and we would explore something else. Working with these apprentices, they hang on your every word, so it’s important to have that dialogue.”

The apprentices themselves echoed this, and spoke openly about the health and safety issues in their respective lines of work and what they do to combat them. I was surprised by their acceptance of responsibility for their own health and safety. It’s a testament to their good training and education that these young workers take responsibility for health and safety and realise it is part of doing a good job.

“I wouldn’t work without my goggles or gloves.”

“I know when to stop using the mechanical tools.”

“You’ve got to be careful of your back, haven’t you?”

In the next issue of Safety Management, we feature more apprentices from Team UK who will be going for gold at World Skills London 2011 and talk to them about their training experiences and thoughts on health and safety in the workplace. Its future, after all, lies in their hands.

Camilla at A Stockman's Retreat with its creators

Back at Hampton Court, before I left I had one more task to do. The Stockman’s Retreat was hoping to win the People’s Choice Award, which is chosen by the public. I voted.

The result was as safe as houses – they won.

The government’s work programme: getting the young safely into work

24 Jun

Youth unemployment is a serious issue currently facing the UK. In February it was revealed that nearly one million 16-24-year-olds were out of work, the highest number since comparable records began in 1992. And as getting these young people back into work increasingly becomes a priority, so too must their safety in doing so.

On Wednesday night I attended an All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs whose aim was to discuss the government’s work programme. The event was held at Portcullis house, chaired by Stewart Jackson MP and attended by the employment minister Chris Grayling, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes, and a host of young people. Simon Hughes actively encouraged the audience to question Chris Grayling, telling us not to “let him off the hook”.

Grayling outlined the elements to his strategy to provide unemployed young people with the support to get back into work. The approach will comprise of three schemes: the government is looking to create opportunities for young people to undertake eight-week work experience placements; it is looking to create far more apprenticeships – 250,000 by the end of parliament; and is currently compiling a list of employers from all sectors who will take on the services of the long-term youth unemployed, with incentives for them doing so. These employers have applied to the government for the right to be able to provide this employment.

Should the initiative go ahead we could witness an unprecedented number of young people entering the workplace for the first time. While I appreciate the benefits embarking on a spell of work experience and gaining a valuable reference from an employer can bring, young people are more at risk of death, injury or illness for a number of reasons, namely a lack of experience and confidence. I’ve worked in risky and hazardous work environments in the past; I knew full well the risks, but did not have sufficient experience to demand the hazards were managed correctly. And I know I’m not the only young person who has done this.  

If the initiative is successful the companies employing this new generation of apprentices and workers need to effectively and supportively manage their safety and health. And I hope that outlining their health and safety policies and the special consideration they will give to young workers will have been a fundamental part of their application to the tender.

Remembering Steven

31 Jan

Steven Burke, young worker

I’ve spent the last week getting all technological and setting up a microsite for a new joint venture with The Co-operative Group called “Safe in our Hands”. In setting it up and writing the copy, I was reminded of the generous spirit, humility and caring nature of one particular young man.   

Today I want to take time for all of us, where ever we’re working and whatever the workplace to remember Steven Burke.

As part of the “Safe in our Hands” charity dinner, we’re giving all proceeds raised to Francis House Children’s Hospice in memory of Steven. Sunday 30 January was the anniversary of Steven’s death. He died too young and aged only 17 years old, in a preventable and tragic workplace accident.

Last year, we ran a new campaign called “Speak Up, Stay Safe” which was aimed directly at young people to make them aware of the potential hazards in the workplace.  As part of the campaign we interviewed parents, teachers, employers and young people to get their stories. It was during this campaign that I met Steven’s mum, Barbara. Watch her story here>>

People like Steven are the reason why I and my colleagues come into work every day. It’s not rocket science. Too many people are dying or being horribly injured. People who had so much more to give and who leave behind devastated families, friends and colleagues.  

So think of Steven today and maybe we can start to make stories like Barbara’s a thing of the past.

Visit www.fack.org.uk for more information.