School is no longer out for summer. Over the next week, Schools across England will be welcoming back their students for the new academic year and those responsible for maintaining the sites will have been busy over summer ensuring everything is ready for their return.
As in all settings, the legal responsibility and thus accountability for health and safety in schools lies with the employer. While this seems straightforward, who the employer is depends on the type of school. There are also differences across England, Scotland and Wales. In the majority of cases with Community Schools, voluntary schools, pupil referral units and maintained nurseries, the employer is the local authority. For Academies and free schools, the Academy trust is the employer. The caretaker or site team then often manage the day to day running of the site.
Health and safety in a school is about taking a proportionate and sensible approach to ensure it provides a healthy and safe place for all who use it; from the school workforce and pupils to visitors.
There are multiple things to consider regarding health & safety on a school site, including (but not limited to):
- Classroom safety – to consider any health and safety issues in an ordinary classroom setting in any school. Checklists are the most favourable choice of measure that can be used by class teachers, teaching assistants, premises staff or department heads. Checklists can save staff time – simplifying many of the checks and paperwork approaches that can be seen as ‘red tape’ when applied to individual classrooms. The HSE have a downloadable classroom checklist PDF
- Risk Assessments – carried out covering topics such as fire, legionella, asbestos, manual handling or violence. Then Drama and sports facilities or specialist classrooms, including laboratories (such as Science), Art (including ovens), IT (computing), Design and Technology facilities including various equipment and machinery (sewing machines for example) where more specialist equipment and/or substances are in use, all require their own risk assessments. School-wide approaches to assessing and managing real risks should be in place so they do not need to be reassessed in an ordinary classroom. We offer Risk Assessment training for those requiring support where we look at a number of different risk assessment templates (including your own) and complete a number of practical exercises.
- Asbestos hazards – Asbestos was extensively used as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s. Any building built before 2000 (houses, factories, offices, schools, hospitals etc) can contain asbestos. System buildings (for example CLASP, SCOLA, SEAC, MACE, ONWARD) constructed during the period 1945 -1980 were widely used for the construction of school premises. These buildings can have structural columns fire proofed with asbestos containing materials (ACMs). The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 includes the ‘duty to manage asbestos’ in non-domestic premises. The responsibility falls to the duty holder. In many cases, this is the person or organisation that has clear responsibility for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises. HSE has developed an Asbestos checklist for schools (PDF) that can help schools to review their asbestos management arrangements. Also, back in 2018, the HSE became aware of two suppliers of scientific equipment that supplied mesh gauzes with asbestos-containing centres. The material on the gauzes is used for its heat-resistant properties. The gauzes were conventionally used with tripods and Bunsen burners. Steps were taken to prevent further supply by the suppliers and ANY gauzes that contain asbestos should not be used, and they must be safely disposed of as asbestos waste. As a precaution, if you are unclear as to what any gauze coating is made of then you should assume that it contains asbestos and dispose of appropriately. We offer an Asbestos Awareness course which provides delegates with with an awareness of the risks associated with exposure to asbestos and how they should manage this and how to identify asbestos.
- Movement of vehicles on the premises – Schools need to assess the risk from vehicle movements and manage those risks in line with current workplace transport guidance eg segregation, marking and lighting. Schools also should consider in their risk assessment, vehicle movements occurring immediately outside the school premises which may be associated with school activities, such as staff arriving and leaving work, school buses delivering pupils, delivery vehicles.
- Manual handling – There is no specific health and safety legislation limiting the weight that children in school can carry, contrary to what a student may tell you! Section 3 of the Health and safety at Work etc Act 1974 imposes some duties on employers and the self-employed towards persons other than their employees such as school children. These are amplified by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which require an assessment of the risks arising from work activities which affect the health and safety of those not in their employment. Although section 3 may apply, other non-HSE legislation concerning the welfare of school children takes precedence. Staff/Employees must follow manual handling guidance at all times. We offer a half day Manual Handling of Loads course to support with this .
- Science practicals – In 2011 the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology reported that practical school science inside and outside the classroom was essential. They found no evidence that health and safety legislation itself prevents this from happening – rather it was the prevalence of myths and the fear of being sued should something go wrong. HSE encourages schools to allow children to experience risk in a managed environment and does not advocate stopping pupils from participating in exciting science experiments, where they can learn first hand the principles of science and develop an appreciation of the hazards and risks. Sensible health and safety means focusing on managing the real risks and going ahead with activities – and it is not about generating mountains of paperwork either.
- School trips – these were all put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic but most schools have now resumed these. The key legislation is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The Act requires employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees and non-employees, so far as is reasonably practicable. The Act also places duties on individuals to take care for the health and safety of themselves and others. Another important legislation is the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004, which require certain providers of facilities for adventure activities to be licensed. As standard, relevant risk assessments must be in place for every trip and the HSE has published a statement to tackle the myths and bureaucracy (PDF) that surround school trips.
- Playtime, Sports and PE – health and safety legislation should not be used as a reason to prevent participation in school sports. Mistaken health and safety concerns should not prevent children from expanding their learning and stretching their abilities. Play is important for children’s well-being and development. Accidents and mistakes happen during play – but fear of litigation and prosecution has been blown out of proportion. These messages apply equally to school sports and physical education. Managing the risk from sports activities sensibly involves making sure that equipment is suitable for the pupils involved, that grounds are properly maintained and the right level of supervision for pupils is in place. When school sport is well managed, the physical challenge and competitive nature of some sports may occasionally lead to injuries. In the event that a pupil playing sport is seriously injured because the risks were not well managed, the accident may be reportable under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR). You can find the HSE Incident reporting in schools (accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences) Guidance for employers here. All school staff should bring serious incidents to the attention of their employer straight away.
- Disability/mobility needs – The Equality Act 2010 requires education employers to consider whether they have taken ‘reasonable steps’ to alleviate any disadvantage suffered by disabled employees and requires education providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that disabled students can fully participate in the education provided. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced specific guidance on reasonable adjustments for disabled students. We can provide training on Administering medication to children in schools, Epliepsy Awareness and evacuation chair training to support this
- Electrical appliances – all appliances must be PAT tested before use and should have a Declaration of Conformity and a CE mark to ensure the product is safe for the intended use. All electrical appliances in Schools should only be used by adults. It is important that all electrical equipment is maintained in a safe condition and used within manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Gates/access – During the summer of 2010 two children died after becoming trapped in powered gates. They were trapped because Their presence at the closing edge was not detected; and The closing force of the gate when they obstructed it was too high. Check your gate is being maintained by a reputable company who regularly test the safety features of the gate to ensure they are set and working correctly – they should use measuring equipment to test closing forces. Keep a log of maintenance. Ensure you know how to release the gate in an emergency – this should be easy and quick to do. You may need to inform your staff or other users how to do this.
Whether you are looking for a retained health and safety consultancy, have a pupil with particular handling needs or are looking to book first aid training for an entire staff team on an inset day, we can help.
For nearly 20 years, Acorn Health and Safety have been providing and wide range of training courses for schools and colleges across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
This includes primary and secondary schools under local authority control, private schools and an increasing number of academies. We also work in several colleges and special needs schools across the area.
In addition, we provide a range of other courses including several accredited by the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), whose courses are particularly suited to those staff members with responsibilities for health and safety, and Qualsafe, whose courses are particularly suited to those staff members with responsibilities First Aid or Food Safety.
Our trainers and consultants have a robust understanding of both regulatory (OFSTED, HSE, EYFS) and local authority requirements and guidance.
We are committed to keeping educational environments, their staff and students safe but recognise that growth and development itself requires a degree of risk taking!
Our consultancy services include our retained consultancy service, ‘Hassle Free’ risk assessment, review and creation of medication policies, noise assessments and the development of safe systems of work for site supervisors and maintenance staff.
We also undertake fire risk assessments and can arrange for specialist assessments covering topics such as legionella, food safety and asbestos.
We offer open and in-house courses that comply with OFSTED requirements and EYFS standards and provide training in the following areas, all of which are relevant to the education sector:
- First Aid
- Healthcare / medication
- Food safety and E-Learning Food Safety
- Practical Fire Safety and E-Learning Fire Safety
- Practical Manual Handling and E-Learning Manual Handling
- Health and Safety and Health & Safety E-Learning
- Medical and Health Awareness E-Learning including Autism Awareness and Learning Disability Awareness
- Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health Awareness E-Learning
- Safeguarding E-Learning
- Workplace and Wellbeing E-Learning including Data Protection in the Workplace, Equality, Diversity & Discrimination and Prevent Duty
Some of our more popular courses in this sector include:
- Handling of pupils with physical disabilities
- Administration of Medication
- Epilepsy & Buccal Midazolam
During this term, the health & safety team will turn their focus on preparing for Winter; clearing the Autumn leaves and preparing for the cold snaps. There is a significant increase in the number of reported slips, trips and falls during the winter months. Slips and trips occur across all education premises – whether a small local primary school, a busy secondary school, a multi-site further education college, or the campus of a higher education institution. They provide a wide variety of facilities including educational, leisure and residential, open to employees, pupils/ students and members of public at varying times of the day. Sites can be busy with large numbers of people moving around at the same time – often rushing. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks (carrying out risk assessments) so everyone is able to move around safely.
We have a number of related training courses to help you keep staff, children and others safe this Winter. From risk assessment training to help consider workplace hazards, through to working at height courses to help clear those gutters out and First Aid for those occasions when people do injure themselves, we can help. Contact us anytime at email@example.com