Natcen Social Research that works for society You are on natcen

You are on the Natcen site

Click here for Scotcen

natcen map

You are on the Natcen site

Click here for Scotcen

natcen map

How best to communicate health and safety messages to young learners in vocational education and training

Young builders
Published: June 2010


This project was commissioned to help the Health and Safety Executive to improve its communications with young learners in vocational education and training about their risks of developing Long Latency Diseases (LLD) in a range of construction-based industries. 

We wanted to:

  • identify the information young learners already receive;
  • examine their attitudes towards health and safety;
  • and determine the most effective ways for delivering this information in future. 


We found that:

  • young learners’ knowledge about LLD was patchy;
  • there was a general belief that dust, fumes and gases are bad for the health;
  • there was some more specific awareness of asbestos and materials such as MDF and silica;
  • some could not recognise different types of asbestos when they came across it;
  • not all felt they knew enough about relevant protective equipment;
  • and there was a common belief that some jobs were less risk, including:
    • quick jobs;
    • occasional jobs; and
    • jobs performed outside. 

These findings indicated the need for:

  • greater clarity about the risks of LLD and how to deal with them;
  • developing materials targeted at different industries;
  • developing materials in conjunction with the different stakeholders involved in training and educating these young people;
  • and targeting young learners before they actually start work on site, in order to cut their risks to the minimum. 

The most effective ways to communicate information about the risks of LLD were through:

  • visually engaging, accessibly written material;
  • information presented by someone with knowledge and experience of the job;
  • radio adverts;
  • posters;
  • and/or information that applied directly to young people’s specific work settings.


The research employed mixed methods: a scoping review of existing literature; telephone interviews with stakeholders; focus groups with young learners; and targeted workshops with young learners exploring their attitudes to and the effectiveness of different communication strategies.  

Read the report