Schools should be a safe place for both pupils and employees. It should be a space place for them physically and mentally. Learning within the school grounds and school trips is key to a child’s education and although the pupils may not have Health and Safety as their top priority it is crucial to assess any risks and put measure in place to minimise or eradicate these risks both onsite and offsite. While a school differs from a small business in many ways, Health and Safety in schools is not something that should be overlooked.
Who is responsible for H&S in schools?
The employer or, in the case of independent schools, the proprietor, is accountable for the health and safety in schools. They are responsible for the overall wellbeing of staff and pupils. This includes, the Health & Safety, the Budget, the Safeguarding – Everything.
Schools must also appoint a “Competent Person” to ensure they meet their health and safety duties. The day-to-day running of the school is usually delegated to the headteacher and the school management team. In most cases, they are responsible for ensuring that risks are managed effectively including health and safety matters.
Should schools have a policy on H&S the same way private companies do?
In essence, yes. Schools must have a health and safety policy in place.
The key elements of the policy should include:
- A general statement of the policy
- Who is responsible for what (delegation of tasks)
- Arrangements for risk assessments and the practical control measures to reduce risk
- How the school will establish, monitor and review its measures to meet satisfactory health and safety standards
The elected competent person in the school should work with the employer and its health and safety advisers to create the policy.
The policy must be updated if a risk assessment brings up a new risk (for example COVID-19).
Health and safety law requires the school to assess risks, put in place proportionate control measures and record details of risk assessments, the measures taken to reduce these risks and expected outcomes.
Schools need to record significant findings of the assessment by identifying:
- The hazards
- How people might be harmed by them
- What they have in place to control risk
Risk assessments are not limited to pupils, they should also cover staff, visitors and contractors.
Risk assessments should be done on every risk that may arise within the school day whether this be on school premises or off site and need to be reviewed regularly.
Schools shouldn’t just adopt the easiest control measure and need to follow the process of the below steps:
- Elimination: Stop an activity that is not considered essential if there are risks attached.
- Substitution: Replace the activity with another that reduces the risk.
- Engineering Controls: Design measures that help control or mitigate risk.
- Administrative Controls: Identify and implement the procedures to improve safety.
Security and Emergency Preparation
All schools should have plans in place to enable them to manage and respond to incidents related to school security and procedures for controlling access.
The Department of Education has more information on this: Department for Education – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Health and safety emergency procedures schools should consider include:
- Serious injury to a pupil or member of staff
- Significant damage to school property
- Criminal activity
- Severe weather
- Public health incidents
- The effects of a disaster in the local community
Schools must ensure that staff receive information and training about health and safety in schools including how to assess risks specific for their job and how to meet their roles and responsibilities identified within the health and safety policy.
Staff whose work involves a greater element of risk will need extra or specific training.
The law requires employees to:
- Take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do at work
- Co-operate with their employers on health and safety matters
- Do their work in accordance with training and instructions
- Inform the employer of any work situation representing a serious and immediate danger, so that remedial action can be taken
The level of risk assessment for school trips should be proportionate to the activity involved and should only focus on real risks.
There are some key factors that need to be considered when assessing risk in regards to school trips:
- Group Size: Ensure that the pupil to staff ratio is proportionate. Ensure that any special education needs are met. Consider a ‘buddy system’ if there is a large group size.
- Medical Conditions: Make yourself aware of any existing medical conditions, serious allergies, dietary requirements or disabilities within the group.
- Travel: Ensure that you know exactly how your group is going to travel to their destination.
- Communication: Ensure all staff are aware of the itinerary for the trip. Communicate to your students and their parents/guardians what is expected of them, what precautions they need to take to manage risks where necessary, and what to do if they become separated from the group or what to do if they need assistance.
- Emergency procedures: Ensure you have a number of first aiders amongst the staff attending, and that medical information is easy to obtain for each staff member.
How Wurkplace can help
Here at Wurkplace we have highly qualified H&S consultants with years of experience who can provide specific advice and an H&S audit to determine your needs. We also have a portal of risk assessments including slips, trips and falls and fire risk assessments. We also provide online training, (including manual handling and working at height) which can provide you and your employees with a raft of information and knowledge on key risk areas.
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