Recruits are put under pressure - Apprentice Watch

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You turn up to your first day at work doing a job for which you would give your right arm. You are eager to please and get stuck in. Then you are presented with a piece of equipment – in this case a high pressure washer – that you have never seen before and have no idea how to use. What do you do? Do you create a bad impression by asking for help or buckle down and use your own initiative (also known as muddling through)?

Fortunately the law is on your side. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 covers this situation. As the title suggests it covers the ‘use’ of ‘work equipment’ in an employment situation. What amounts to work equipment is very broad it includes “any machinery, appliance, apparatus, tool or installation for use at work”. This means whether it is a humble spanner or a 40 foot juggernaut the regulations apply. They certainly cover high pressure washers.

So what does it mean for our new recruit who is staring at this alien piece of equipment? Under the regulations the employer has to ensure that everyone using the washer has had adequate instructions (written if needs be) about the use of the equipment with particular regard being paid to health and safety issues.

In addition the regulations go on to require that all employees have had adequate training – again with particular regard to health and safety issues – on the use of the equipment.

Whilst the apprentices were struggling to even get the washer put together and working this is still very much an area where health and safety should be considered. It is one thing to get the equipment operating but quite another to get it operating safely. As we all know, electricity and water are a potent mix and should only be left in the hands of responsible adults. You can decide for yourself how responsible last night’s adults were.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations cover much more than just information and training. They impose strict obligations on employers in terms of maintaining work equipment – it is not a good defence for an employer to say they did their best to maintain the equipment in good working order; they simply have to maintain it that way.

There are also rules about dangerous parts of machinery, high and low temperatures and making sure that the right piece of equipment is used for the right job.

So what should our eager new starters have done? If they weren’t trying to win a competition they should have asked what instructions were available or asked for a demonstration, if not full training. The reality is that most employers would not throw a new person in at the deep end without a word of instruction. Where they do – as we found out – it is a recipe for disaster and if injury arises as a result the employer may find themselves having to pay compensation accordingly.


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