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When parents send their children to school, they want to be certain that the children are in a safe environment. Similarly, teachers need to be sure that pupils are protected during learning hours, too. This is why suitable health and safety regulations are a requirement for schools in order to keep their students and staff in a protected environment.
But how is health and safety implemented in a college, school or academy?
A school doesn’t start and end with the pupils, teachers and the headteacher – there are a number of governing bodies, charities and employers that assist other members of staff. It is usually the employer that decides what health and safety rules should be executed. The employer could be a local authority, a proprietor, a trust, a charity, a Board of Governors or a company. They are responsible for ensuring that potential risks to the children or staff are managed in a reasonable way.
The regulations will be passed on to members of staff, who may require some kind of training so they can make sure that health and safety procedures are being carried out day to day. The overall legal responsibility remains with the employer.
When deciding which health and safety policies should be introduced, the employer should carry out a thorough risk management assessment in order to identify, analyse, rank, treat and monitor risks. For example, the employer may identify that pupils could burn themselves on a hot radiator and fit a radiator cover in order to reduce the risk.
To help you identify hazards you may need to consider in your school, you could download a useful checklist that takes you through all the most common hazards, as well as some of the more uncommon ones.
In a school, there are some environments that may be deemed low risk, for example, a maths classroom. The risk might increase in other areas, for example in science labs, art or drama studios or outdoor areas such as tennis courts. The hazards for these areas will be very different to a classroom, so these need to be assessed and precautions should be put in place in order to reduce the risk of harm.
There may also be additional risks, including roads. For example, if the school field is only accessible by crossing a road, additional procedures could be put in place. It might be that pupils can only cross this road with a teacher or other member of staff present.
If an employee of the school believes that there is a health and safety issues that hasn’t been addressed before, they should speak to the headteacher, who may be able to talk to the employer to have more precautions put in place.
Following health and safety regulations doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be as simple as putting up a poster in a science classroom that reminds students to wear their safety glasses.
When children go to school, it is the school’s responsibility to keep them safe. It is also the school’s responsibility to keep the staff safe too.
When the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) provides an inspection, they may be looking for hazards or might ask students whether they feel safe in school. Pupil safety is part of the standard to attain an ‘Outstanding’ OFSTED ranking. To prepare for this, you could use a questionnaire that is sent out to all pupils to determine whether they have any concerns and address these.
If a child is harmed when attending school and there isn’t any health and safety rules in place, the parents could file an injury claim and may be entitled to compensation if they win.
School trips can have lots of benefits for pupils. Whether it’s a short trip to the local art gallery, or a few days away to a city to learn about the culture, the students can learn a lot. However, some schools may avoid organising days out because they’re worried about monitoring health and safety while off school premises.
A risk assessment should be completed in preparation for the trip. The assessment will include a list of potential, realistic risks and what systems will be put in place to reduce the risks or eliminate them altogether.
There should be clear communication with the parents to make them aware of exactly when the trip is, what the children need to pack, where they’ll be going (with an exact address) and sufficient contact details of the teachers and the hotel (if it’s an overnight stay).
Teachers should consider the risks and put precautions in place to prevent hazards from happening. For example, there should be at least three teachers accompanying the students when walking: one at the front leading the way, one at the back to make sure no one gets lost or strays away, and one in the middle. A register should be taken frequently to make sure that all students are present.
The risk assessment should show evidence of planning for the trip, the identification of realistic hazards and the measures the teachers will take to prevent anyone coming to harm.
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