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Apprentice Supervision, Know your Obligations


Penalties handed down to a Victorian electrical company serves as a reminder of what is considered as the correct level of supervision for Apprentices.

In this case the Victorian company was found to be in breach of s21 (Duties of employers to employees) of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. It was found that an apprentice electrician was left to carry out electrical installation tasks without being supervised. While the employer held the required licence to carry out the work, he was not there to supervise the work, exposing the employee to the risk of serious injury or death. This among, other breaches, led to the company being find $8,000 plus $2,672 in costs.

So what is considered appropriate supervision?

The level of supervision that is given to an Apprentice or any employee, is derived from the duty of care obligations of a person conducting a business or undertaking, which exist under s19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Act). A failure to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and other persons could lead to prosecution and as we see from the case above substantial monetary penalties.

Apprentices by their very nature are still in the phases of learning their trade and will require a higher level of supervision than perhaps other employees. The appropriate level of supervision required may depend on the skill, experience and knowledge of the individual apprentice. However, it is recommended that Apprentices in their 1st and 2nd year will require more direct supervision while those in their 3rd and 4th year would require more general supervision.

The recommended ratio of supervisor to apprentice can also vary depending on the year the of apprenticeship being undertaken. To ensure effective supervision is provided, the following ration recommendations should be followed:

Year of Apprenticeship Persons responsible for supervision : Apprentice ratio
1 or 2 1 : 1 Direct supervision
3 or 4 1 : 5 General supervision


Stepping outside of the above supervision ratios will require careful consideration to ensure that elements of effective supervision are being met.

For tips and further advice on Apprentice supervision and ratios, our Workplace Relations and Legal team are more than happy to help. Reach out to the team on (02) 6175 5900.