HSE warns schools after pupil is injured on work experience

Deansfield High School in Wolverhampton employed Making Learning Work Ltd of Brewood, Stafford in 2005 to locate extended work experience placements for 32 pupils at a cost of £650 each.

Today the company pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was given one year’s conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £22,000 at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court, following an injury to a pupil on a placement in January 2006.

The court heard that a 14-year-old student was placed at R&B Motor Services, a garage owned by Harjinder Kumar. The school was led to believe that Making Learning Work Ltd would carry out a full health and safety audit and risk assessment prior to the pupil starting work at the garage.

However, the checks failed to take place and the teenager was almost exclusively supervised by one employee who spoke very little English. During a petrol draining operation the teenager sustained a burn injury to his left hand.

At a previous hearing Mr Kumar had pleaded guilty to a health and safety offence and was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay costs.

HSE inspector John Healy said: “Placing a 14-year-old schoolboy in extended work experience at R&B Motor Services was totally inappropriate. Probable inexperience and lack of maturity makes it essential that young people’s work experience placements are risk assessed before the start-date.

“Making Learning Work Ltd failed in its duty by exposing this pupil to health and safety risks. Had they carried out a risk assessment, it would have soon been obvious that the garage was unsuitable.

“This should send a clear message to all involved in work experience placements that risk assessments are vital. In this case, the consequences could have been much more serious.

“HSE has investigated several fatal accidents resulting from petrol draining from vehicles where the appropriate safety device, called a fuel retriever, which costs less than £500, was not used.”