Health and Safety on Work Experience and Placements

Code of practice

The code of practice is not intended to provide comprehensive guidance, but rather to outline the necessary steps to be taken for ensuring that placements provide a healthy and safe environment for University students. It draws from several sources on this topic, including the CVCP Health and Safety Guidance for the Placement of HE Students and the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance Managing health and safety on work experience – A guide for organisers.

Work experience involves arranging work placements, fully preparing and briefing students before they are placed, and de-briefing them afterwards. Students will be placed with a company or organisation to carry out a range of tasks defined in a job description, with an emphasis on the learning aspects of the work experience.

Planning and organising work experience

Key Players

Successful management of health and safety at work experience placements relies on close co-operation between the key players – placement organisers, placement providers and participating students.

The Placement Organiser

Under current health and safety legislation the University holds some responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of students on work experience, including those students who find their own work experience placements.

The Head of Section

The head of section will ensure that an adequate assessment is made of any company or organisation offering a work placement. Questions should be asked of the company’s general approach to occupational health and safety and a judgement made about the placement’s overall suitability.

The head of section must ensure that placement officers are authorised, competent and, where necessary, qualified to make a reasonable judgement about the placement being considered.

The Professional Practice Year Manager

The Professional Practice Year Manager may discuss with the placement provider the objectives of the placement and the implications of accepting students in the workplace.

Via the placement student, the Professional Practice Year Manager should arrange for the placement provider to complete the placement health and safety checklist (see Policies and Forms) prior to the student commencing on the placement.

Companies/organisations not willing to complete the preliminary questionnaire or otherwise co-operate with providing suitable information about their approach to occupational health and safety should be classed as high risk. Consequently they should not be included in the work experience scheme.

In the course of the preliminary discussions with the placement provider, the Professional Practice Year Manager will need to consider whether an initial site visit will be appropriate. Such site visits are valuable and represent good practice in providing a ‘snapshot’ of a potential provider’s approach to health and safety management.

It is not possible for this document to define a standard frequency of review visits, moreover the frequency of any subsequent visit to the placement will depend on factors such as hazards at the workplace and the standards of health and safety management.

Where the Professional Practice Year Manager has reason to suspect that the placement may pose a significant risk to the health and safety of any work experience participant then, in consultation with the University’s Health and Safety Unit, they must carry out a risk assessment in addition to the one carried out by the placement provider. If the result of the assessment is unsatisfactory then the student should not be placed with that provider.

The Professional Practice Year Manager should brief students on the following matters:

  • the student’s responsibilities for health and safety whilst on the placement;
  • what they should do if they are asked or expected to do work they consider dangerous, or beyond their physical capacity (heavy lifting, for example);The Professional Practice Year Manager is responsible to their head of section for ensuring that placements meet appropriate standards of health, safety and welfare and that placement providers are aware of their health and safety duties

Placement provider

Placement providers are companies or other organisations that offer work experience placements and as such have the primary duty to ensure the health and safety of work experience participants during their placements.

Placement providers should give an assurance that students on work experience will be given the same level of information, instruction, supervision, training and protection in terms of health and safety as other employees.

Where the placement provider is a small family concern which may not normally employ staff they become an ‘employer’ as soon as they accept a placement student.

The placement provider will be required to provide details of the necessary insurance cover for a student on work experience, ie employer’s liability insurance and public liability insurance. Whilst it is preferable that the placement provider holds both employers and public liability insurance, it is accepted that where the company is a family business employing only closely related persons they may not carry employers liability insurance. In any case no student should be allowed on a placement unless that placement provider can produce evidence of holding public liability insurance as a minimum.

Students who have special needs or are at greater risk from the work, such as young persons i.e. those over the minimum school leaving age but under 18, are owed a greater duty of care and as such the placement provider must ensure that:

  • risks to their young workers, including students on work experience, are assessed before they start work;
  • the risk assessment takes into account specific factors such as their immaturity, inexperience and lack of awareness;
  • control measures are introduced to eliminate or minimise the risks.


Students participating in work experience have the same duties as other employees in the workplace.

Students have a duty to:

  • take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by their actions or omissions;
  • co-operate with the placement provider in complying with the provider’s legal duties
  • report any hazards they may encounter.

Working Time

Although the number of hours worked and pattern of work is normally a matter for agreement by the placement provider, student and placement organiser, in compliance with the Working Time Regulations 1998 students should not work for more than five days in any consecutive seven-day period.

The Placement Officers should take steps to ensure that students at work experience placements are not asked to work excessively long hours or unnecessarily unsocial hours.

As a general guide it is strongly recommended that students should not work more than a standard eight-hour day.

Placements in distant locations

Where a placement has been arranged with a company or organisation based in a distant location i.e. outside the territorial waters of the United Kingdom, and in some cases in remote areas of the UK, then every attempt should be made by the school to ensure that the company has a satisfactory safety record. This might involve the use of overseas universities being asked to visit employers in their area.

Further guidance concerning working overseas, including a travel checklist, can be found in the University’s Code of Practice – Safety when Working in Distant Locations.