Health And Safety Responsibilities For Schools
Health and safety is a crucial part of running a successful educational institution. Maintaining a safe, functional environment for children to grow, learn and thrive should be a top priority for staff members. According to The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act), education employers are legally required to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees and non-employees (including pupils, parents and visitors). Here is a basic guide to health and safety for schools.
Who Is In Charge?
Accountability for health and safety falls to the employer, i.e. board of school directors or, in the case of an independent school, the proprietor(s). While head teachers and senior members of staff are primarily responsible for daily health and safety management, appointed individuals working for a school’s governing body are in charge of approving health and safety-related policies and procedures. That said, every staff member has a common law duty to safeguard the health and well-being of the pupils in their care, as well as that of other staff members and visitors.
Health And Safety Policies
School health and safety policies outline which staff members are responsible for overseeing the management of school safety standards, as well as details regarding risk assessments. Policies are designed to ensure values are applied consistently, and guidelines are followed in accordance with the law, educational frameworks and government organisations like Ofsted. Staff are responsible for familiarising themselves with their school’s policies and following procedures accordingly.
The purpose of risk assessments is to identify potential risks during school activities, so staff can take reasonable steps to minimise and eliminate them. A risk describes anything that could cause injury or illness to anybody on the premises. The procedure should be carried out by competent individuals and comprises five core steps - risk identification, risk analysis, risk evaluation, risk treatment, and risk monitoring.
Risk assessments must cover everything from P.E. equipment to school trips and should be regularly reviewed and updated. All risk assessments should be recorded and filed as proof of execution to keep track of hazards and control measures.
Play is an integral part of growing and developing for children. There are risks involved in both indoor and outdoor play. However, risk-taking helps children develop confidence, independence and self-esteem. Furthermore, outdoor play is tremendously beneficial in terms of physical fitness and the development of gross motor skills. As such, all pupils attending an educational setting have the right to outdoor play. While every step should be taken to eliminate risks and all outdoor activities should be supervised by a qualified staff member, trips, falls, and other accidents will inevitably occur. Therefore, a balanced approach is crucial to support children’s well-being and education.
Every school takes fire safety exceptionally seriously. Settings should establish effective emergency procedures, outlining the egress routes and safe assembly points. Teaching staff should explain to their pupils the importance of remaining calm and compliant in the event of an emergency, such as a fire or criminal activity. Furthermore, emergency exits and egress must always be kept clear and free from obstructions.
Fire alarms should be checked once every six months, and emergency lighting maintenance should be carried out regularly. Fire evacuation drills generally occur once per term to keep procedures fresh in everybody’s memory and identify potential hazards that may hinder the evacuation process.
Common Classroom Hazards
The classroom is full of potential hazards; therefore, teachers are responsible for controlling them within reason. Some common classroom hazards include:
- Floors - classroom floors should be clean, dry and kept clear and free from objects that could cause trips and falls.
- Art Supplies - art supplies should be non-toxic and stored correctly.
- Science Equipment - all equipment and substances should be clearly labelled, documented and locked away.
- Scissors - pupils should be taught how to use and carry scissors safely and correctly.
- Behaviour - boisterous behaviour can result in injury and should be discouraged.
- Stairs - pupils moving from one area to another should do so in a calm and orderly manner to avoid trips and falls.
- Electrical Equipment - electrical safety precautions should always be followed, and equipment should be PAT tested every 12 months.