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Work Experience Students Must Not Be Given Dangerous Jobs

Document Type: Alert
Keycode: web only
Category: Consultation, Young Workers, 
Division Author: Communications
Publication Date: 09 June 2005
Date First Published: 19 February 2003
Summary: This alert provides guidance information on the types of work that students may be given during work experience and guidance on protecting these young people.

There were a series of incidents over June and July 2002 where students were seriously injured while carrying out tasks during work experience assignments. These injuries occurred as a result of the students either being given dangerous work to do or being in the immediate vicinity of dangerous work.

This Alert provides some general guidance on the role of work experience. It then describes some of the equipment that work experience students should never use and the types of jobs they should not do; this is not intended to be a comprehensive list of dangerous equipment or jobs for work experience students.

Anyone who has control or management over the jobs a work experience student may do during an assignment must ensure, so far as is practicable, that those students are not exposed to any risk to their health or safety during that assignment. These obligations most clearly apply to the School Principal who authorises the work experience assignment and the employer who hosts the student.

What happened in the recent incidents?

  • A student, watching an employee cut a metal drum with an angle grinder, sustained a broken leg when flammable liquid left in the drum exploded.
  • A student operating a power press sustained an injury to his wrist requiring surgery.
  • A student's leg was crushed while operating a skid steer loader.

General guidance on the role of work experience and selecting safer jobs
Work experience for secondary school students has been part of the Victorian education curriculum for many years. It has proved to be an effective way for students to see, first hand, what is involved in the sort of employment they are interested in. Work experience is, primarily, an opportunity for students to observe actual working environments. However, it's recognised that minor tasks are often part of the work experience assignment.

If a decision has been made to give a work experience student some tasks to enhance the effectiveness of the work experience assignment, those tasks should not create a risk to the health and safety of the student. For example, it may be valuable to allow a student doing work experience at a cafe to be involved in some basic food preparation (e.g. laying out plates for orders, salad preparation). Conversely, it would be inappropriate for that student to do food preparation which involved the use of knives or other cutting equipment. In an office-based work experience assignment it may be acceptable for a student to help put together copies of a photocopied report. It would be unacceptable to have the work experience student stack shelves with photocopying paper if that involved heavy or repetitive lifting. It's important to understand that work experience is not intended as a way to develop work skills.

The employer should allocate a safety mentor or supervisor for work experience students. This person should have sufficient knowledge and skills to act as a supervisor for the student, including providing the student with information about the workplace - particularly advice about where dangerous work is carried out in the workplace.

Specific jobs that a work experience student should not do
It is also clearly inappropriate, and a contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (see more details below) for work experience students to operate dangerous equipment or to carry out high risk tasks.

Some of the types of equipment work experience students should never use

  • powered mobile plant;
  • powered cutting or grinding tools;
  • gas fuelled cutting equipment;
  • welding equipment;
  • power presses;
  • powered lifting equipment;
  • elevating work platforms;
  • abrasive blasting equipment;
  • explosive powered tools;
  • nail guns; or
  • jack hammers.

Types of tasks work experience students should not do

  • use any of the equipment listed above;
  • work at height where there is any risk of a fall which could cause an injury;
  • any task that requires training or special skills to avoid a risk to safety - e.g. operating machinery, driving a forklift vehicle, use of explosives;
  • work associated with substances which require particular risk controls to avoid exposure - e.g. any substance that generates hazardous dusts or fumes; or
  • work involving lifting, pushing or pulling which can result in a manual handling injury - e.g. actions that require sustained effort, repetitive movements or movements in awkward postures.

Legal responsibilities
In addition to not being given the sort of work described in this Alert, the work experience student must be provided with the same level of protection, under the duties in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, as would be due to an employee.

Acts and Regulations

Acts and regulations are available from Information Victoria on 1300 366 356 or order online at

View the legislation at Victorian Law Today:

Further information

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission web site also holds a valuable range of guidance material. You can access material from all over Australia on that site: go to

Note: This material has been prepared using the best information available to WorkSafe Victoria. Any information about legislative obligations or responsibilities included in this material is only applicable to the circumstances described in the material. You should always check the legislation referred to in this material and make your own judgement about what action you may need to take to ensure you have complied with the law. Accordingly, the Victorian WorkCover Authority extends no warranties as to the suitability of the information for your specific circumstances.