Colleges educate over three million students of all ages each year. They provide valuable employability skills which set people up for their future jobs. Young people studying at colleges are the next generation of workers and are critically important for the continued prosperity of the country. That’s why it’s so critical for them to be trained not only in the skills needed for their role, but also managing how to handle situations of risk.
Students of subjects such as science, technology and engineering may be exposed to hazardous substances both at college and when they enter the world of work. Exposure to these can be harmful. It can cause pain and suffering for affected individuals and their families; it can lead to disruption and damaged reputation and profitability for the companies involved and it can cost the whole economy, including the NHS.
Health and safety risk management, of course, is not exactly the most engaging subject area for students. It can be seen as something that they have to learn, but not necessarily fully grasp. That’s why it’s so important to look at different and innovative approaches to teaching this area. The Learning Occupational Health by Experiencing Risks (LOcHER) project has been created to tackle this. By raising the awareness of young people about the health effects of exposure to hazardous substances at the early stages of their career development, it can help to reduce the long-term harm. Students from South Essex College, for example, have used the project to identify the occupational health risks associated with paint spraying during their motor vehicle repair course. What’s interesting is that until the students had taken part in the project, they weren’t fully appreciating the risks involved and the damage that can be done to their bodies. The project works because it relates to learning by doing and developing practically based risk controlled situations.
It is right that every health and safety professional at a college should be concerned about young peoples’ health, the reputation of their institution and the prosperity of Great Britain. The LOcHER is a real opportunity to be part of the solution.
Dr Bob Rajan - Sithamparanadarajah OBE JP is Vice Chair of Safety Groups UK and HM Principal Inspector of Health and Safety at the Occupational Hygiene Unit of the Health and Safety Executive.
Hear more about the project at AoC’s Health and Safety Conference on 4 May. View the programme and register online.