Guidance Note - Supervision of Apprentices

The supervision of Australian Apprentices and Trainees is a significant responsibility for Person’s Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) across all industries. It is important that you understand your obligations under the Australian Capital Territory work health and safety laws.

This guidance note has been developed to give employers a general overview of what level of supervision is required for Australian Apprentices and Trainees across all industries and workplaces in the ACT.

Primary Duty of Care

Section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 outline's the primary duty of care of a person conducting a business or undertaking.

The duty of care for a person conducting a business or undertaking is to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and other persons.

Failure to comply with a health and safety duty could lead to regulatory action being taken, including prosecution which may include substantial monetary penalties.

Supervision of Australian Apprentices

Generally, the minimum requirement under the training contract will be met if the Australian Apprentice is supervised by a suitably qualified and licensed (where required in licensed trades) person, who is permanently employed at the same workplace and predominantly for the same hours as the Australian Apprentice. An example of suitably qualified may be that they hold the same qualification as the Australian Apprentice. Supervision of Australian Apprentices and Trainees cannot be undertaken by electronic means.

Trainee Supervision

For Trainees, a suitably qualified supervisor can be the employer or another staff member who already has the skills and knowledge that the trainee is learning, which may have been gained through a variety of pathways, including on-the-job experience.

Apprentice Supervision

For Australian Apprentices, a suitably qualified supervisor can be the employer or another staff member who has an equivalent or higher-level qualification in the same field or trade to the one being undertaken by the Australian Apprentice. In the case of licensed trades, the supervisor also requires the relevant current licence.

Levels of Supervision

Australian Apprentices and Trainees look to the person responsible for their supervision for guidance and assistance in learning how to undertake their job safely and competently and should be encouraged to raise safety concerns. Australian Apprentices and Trainees need varying levels of supervision as they acquire skills and gain confidence. This supervision falls into two categories: Direct and General .

Direct Supervision (E.G. 1st and 2nd Year)

Direct supervision means supervision at all times. It is on a direct and constant basis within visual contact and/or earshot (audible range). It is one-on-one supervision which provides specific and constant guidance to the Australian Apprentice, whilst keeping them in line of sight. The supervisor must closely liaise and monitor the Australian Apprentice while continuing to review work practices (including safety) and the standard of their work.

General Supervision (E.G. 3rd and 4th Year)

General supervision means being under instruction and direction for tasks being performed. The Australian Apprentice should only move from direct supervision to general supervision for those skills where they have demonstrated competence. The supervisor shall provide the Australian Apprentice with instruction and direction for the tasks to be performed, with progressive checks and relevant testing to be carried out while the work is being undertaken. This means the Australian Apprentice does not require constant attendance of the supervisor but requires personal contact on a recurrent (periodic) basis.

The supervisor must remain on the same work site as the Australian Apprentice and be readily available to communicate directly with the Australian Apprentice when required (this does not mean by phone).

Ration of Supervisors to Australian Apprentices and Trainees

To exceed the supervision ratio for Australian Apprentices and Trainees, careful consideration must be undertaken to ensure that elements of effective supervision is meet.

Elements of effective Supervision

An effective workplace supervisor:

  • provides a safe and supportive (respectful) workplace
  • trains the Australian Apprentice in safe work practices
  • provides technical training
  • acts as a positive role model
  • understands and implements the Australian Apprentices training plan
  • helps the Australian Apprentice develop problem solving skills
  • provides regular feedback and encouragement in a constructive manner
  • discusses and develops on-the-job training
  • has undergone supervisory training to assist in mentoring and supervising of Australian Apprentices.

Records of supervision

It is recommended that supervisors keep brief but clear written records of:

  • verbal instructions
  • site inductions, toolbox talks, pre-starts and WHS management plans
  • relevant diary notes.

Risk Assessment

Further to the above guidance, supervisors should determine the level of supervision required following a risk assessment of the work health and safety issues involved and the level of competency of the Australian Apprentice for the tasks to be completed. If in doubt, provide additional support until individual has meet industry standard.

A risk assessment sets out the identification of risks and how to plan for the control of those risks in the workplace. It also enables you to identify which risk controls you currently have in place, what controls need revision, and what new controls need to be added.

Australian Apprentices engaged in licensed electrical work must always have a supervisor available on site, no matter what task they have been assigned.

Australian Apprentices engaged in high-risk work should always have direct supervision and kept in line of sight. Australian apprentices should not be left on site without a supervisor. Work which has a lower level of risk may allow for some consideration in the level of supervision required, depending on the skills of the Australian Apprentice and the other controls which have been put in place to eliminate or mitigate any work health and safety risks.

In all cases, supervisors should assess the tasks that have been allocated to an Australian Apprentice and determine the necessary level of supervision, taking into account those risks as well as what other controls are in place to mitigate the work health and safety risks to the worker.

Further Information

For tips and advice on work health and safety, WorkSafe ACT offers a free workplace advisory service. An experienced WHS Inspector can visit your workplace to help you to identify hazards and risks as well as offering practical safety solutions that will suit your work circumstances.

For further information please contact the WorkSafe ACT Inspector for Apprentices and Young workers on phone (02) 6207 7794.

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