Head Teachers - Managing Health and Safety in your School

Oct 20 21:00 2004 Paddy Swan Print This Article

Head ... Safety ... Toolkit Article ... Teachers - Managing Health and Safety in your ... School. What you need to know.If you read nothing else

Head Teacher's Safety Management Toolkit Article


Head Teachers - Managing Health and Safety in your
Primary/Infant School.

What you need to know.

If you read nothing else about Health and Safety read this.
It’s about 1500 words long but it summarises what you need to know about managing Health and Safety to satisfy laws and regulations as they affect your school.

Changes to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations(1999) (MSHW) as laid out in the Regulations and their Guidance have made specific requirements and laid a responsibility on School dutyholders to manage Health and
Safety in all UK Schools.

They need to do this by managing within a system. This is the School Safety Management System(SMS) and every school should have one.

The head teacher as the person with responsibility for a school site is a dutyholder as described in H&S laws.

What actually are dutyholders?

•Dutyholders are people with control over school safety.
They are the people who face enforcement action in the event of anything going wrong.
oIn main these are the Employer
and the Headteacher.
oIn any event the Headteacher is the
person in control of the site and a dutyholder in any school.
The main duties of the Employer are to provide
resources and a framework of policies and some specific procedures and then to monitor and audit how H&S is implemented and managed.

Governors in Community schools have control over budgets and need to support the head teacher,Guest Posting who is the person responsible for the site, and main site dutyholder but they are not dutyholders per se.

Who might action be taken against?

•The Employer, this is the LEA, the Foundation and/or the school whoever may be regarded as the employer under H&S law. The Employer can be an individual or like an LEA or school which is a Body Corporate for the purposes of safety law and its’ enforcement.

o Non employer individuals as well as the school may be subject of enforcement if they do not carry out their duties. This could apply to some Governor, Directors and/or Trustees and any individuals who may be dutyholders, as far
as they exercise the function of employer in Foundation, Private or Voluntary Aided Schools.

o Employees, Visitors and Contractors could also be subject of enforcement if they do not carry out their duties under H&S Law. This could apply to an individual who
tampered with safety equipment or put someone at risk by negligence or incompetence.This could even be a pupil in a Secondary School who acts maliciously or in a grossly negligent way.So anyone on the school site might be
considered liable, except for children below the age of criminal reponsibility.

However,it is the Head Teacher who is the main dutyholder and their main duty is to implement the policies/procedures of the Employer and manage Health and Safety on their site.

What are the requirements to manage safety?

•The Management of Health and Safety at Work
Regulations(1992 - 9) defined that all schools needed to manage safety. To do this any school needs to have a system for carrying out its’ H&S duties and also for reviewing safety
matters in case situations change within the school .

This is the School Safety Management System (SMS) and this a whole school issue and staff,governors and pupils need to be
part of, and contribute to this system.

• The SMS needs to be used to manage safety actively as part of the School’s normal operations. Having an SMS and operating it is part of the normal work of the school and
should be accommodated in resources and budgets within the school framework.

The SMS is the framework within which the school needs to address all its’ Health and Safety duties.

What are the main H&S areas which the Head Teacher needs to consider as duties?

•Risk Assessment - The School needs assess all its’ risks and put control measures put in place to reduce them. This means that a Risk Assessment System needs to be part of
the school SMS. Risk Assessment need not be overcomplicated but the Risk Assessments need to be done by a COMPETENT Person.This means:

"A person with suitable, knowledge, skills, qualities and experience to carry out their taks without risk to their own health and safety or that of others." (Lord Cullen - Piper
Alpha Report).

This person could be a teacher who has been deemed competent by virtue of their experience, GTC registration and experience. So a Science qualified member of staff is the best person to carry out any Risk Assessment based around Science activities.

Equally a staff member who has taken many trips can carry out a Visits Risk Assessment.

What counts as adequate experience?
How many trips is enough or appropriate?

This is a matter for your school SMS to define but, a competent person should always be appointed following a logical system and IN WRITING.

If you have not got in-house competence(a matter of judgement) you will need to call in outside assistance, applying the same criteria to any outside consultant.

Has someone from an industrial H&S background enough competence to help you carry out a Risk Assessment for a Educational Visit? Probably not.

Your SMS needs to define how and when you should review and change risk assessments and what criteria you need to adopt for various actions.

And remember, it is no earthly good adopting model Risk Assessments unchanged. All Risk Assessments must be pertinent and apply
to your school and its' specific conditions.

•Training - H&S duties also mean that the School needs to train and give information /instruction to its’ staff and
some visitors. These H&S training duties mean that the school needs to be able to deem staff competent to play their part in the system.

It also means that the school must deliver job specific training and/or instruction. The main areas of training defined by regulations and good practice include:

* Induction for all new staff and for specified visitors and contractors

* Basic Safety Requirement defined by your School SMS and which is sufficient H&S Training for staff to enable them to operate safely with awareness of duties,responsibilities,
the main hazards and risks and to enable them to play their part in the School SMS.

* Job specific Safety training and Instruction - Training to enable the member of staff to carry out their job role safely. e.g COSHH familiarisation for Cleaning Staff who use
chemical cleaning agents.Instruction in a new piece of equipment and how to use it safely.

•Policies and Procedures – The school needs to have a School Health and Safety Policy and suitable procedures which should flow from the risk assessments made. It is expected that all policies and procedures will be developed
with input from, and consultation of ,staff. The Policy and the Procedures need to be available to staff and should be reviewed regularly. The same criteria applies to Policies and Procedures provided as models for the school as to Risk

* They must be made school specific.
* They need to form part of the School Safety Management System.

•Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Flowing from the school Risk Assessment System control measures will be identified and some of these e.g for school cleaning, will indicate that PPE needs to be used for some operations. The
school needs to ensure that the PPE is available, in good condition and that employees and pupils wear it and use it properly. It should also be regularly inspected and
inspections recorded and equipment updated and replaced as necessary. If PPE is provided to pupils for use in school or on visits e.g buoyancy aids for water based activities,
or mountaineering gear for adventure based trips, the children need to be clearly instructed and know how to use
it and it should be in good condition.

•Managing Safety – The Head teacher and any Governing Body, whether it is the Employer or not, has a duty to ensure that safety is properly managed in school and this means :
that a SMS is in place and it works.
that all Risk Assessments, Policies, Procedures etc are appropriate to the specific circumstances of the school.

Children and Safety:

Because of the intersection of laws like the Children Act and various Education and Medical Acts, H&S in schools is actually far more complex than it is in industry.The clear
imperative for any teacher or school is the primacy of the safety of the children.

This also brings into play the professional duty of care of the teacher and the school to do no harm through carelessness and/or negligence.

This taken in the round means that the level of care and supervision given to younger and more immature children needs to be greater than that given to older, more mature children. However, every teacher knows that some Year 5s can
be be more mature than Year 6s.This is where the teacher's professional competence intersects with Risk Assessment, Polciies and Procedures. Every day in controlling the class teacher's are making ongoing Risk Assessments in maintaining
discipline and adequate supervision. All that H&S does is to provide a framework in which to operate which allows them to justify their actions in case of a accident or incident. By
providing this framework the school protects, itself, its' staff and its' children.

Staff and Governors and the SMS

• Whether or not the Governing Body is the Employer it still carries out its’ duties by oversight of the SMS and actively checks by monitoring and auditing the School SMS
and ensures that it fits the school’s circumstances. The Employer Governing Body as a dutyholder would have the additional legal responsibility of providing policies and
specific procedures together with resources to manage safety.

•The Regulations point out that it is good practice for a Governor to be appointed to have responsibility for Health and Safety and its’ management in the school.

•There is a requirement under safety law and regulations for School Staff to be consulted in matters which affect their safety.At present this often done through the teaching
Union Reps.This is fine but it tends to discourage the whole staff to participate in the SMS.

A good way for this to happen is to enlist staff and pupils in a School Safety Committee which helps to run, and is part of, the School SMS.

Accidents do happen?

Health and Safety compliance need not be a major burden. It simply needs to be put in place because accidents do happen and if they do they should be approached using a safety
approach to learn from them and as opportunities to review Risk Assessment and reappraise control measures.

Accidents can be to pupils, staff or visitors/contractors and can result in litigation and/or prosecution. Accidents
to children which have ended in litigation against schools have often been unsuccessful if the accident has been shown to be a result of play.

The view taken by courts seems to be that play is necessary for a child’s development and sometimes this can result in accidents but the school need not take undue or unreasonably
costly action to avoid all accidents at all costs.

Even for accidents caused during horseplay the courts have indicated that negligence or extreme recklessness needs to be demonstrably proven.

Reasonable safety is the concept which is the benchmark to judge response to safety matters against and provided the school has reasonable systems in place which indicate that
it is managing safety and using good practice it should be secure.

Prosecution and enforcing UK Safety Law.

HSE is the body which inspects and enforces the safety law.

Approximately 25% of all prosecutions for breaches which HSE made over the last 5 years were attributed to breaches of
management duties under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

Having said that action by HSE involving enforcement action against schools is rare and prosecution rarer still. There are approximately 80 breaches per year in Primary Schools.

Accidents are not so rare unfortunately and approximately 11,000 accidents were reported in Education under RIDDORS (3 day accidents) in 1999/2000 of which about one third were
due to slips and trips.


Provided a school follows good practice and the rules no one is likely to be at risk from enforcement or legal action.

That the Staff, Governing Body and individual Governors need to support the Headteacher in carrying out their duty under the law and co-operate with any Employer is a given.The Head
Teacher also needs to respond to the H&S requiremnts of the employer and the law.

They can do this by ensuring that safety is managed in the school under a Safety Management System. This ensures that the school is in compliance with the regulations.

The whole school needs to be seen to be playing its’ full part in any school Safety Management System.

The Employer and Governors by oversight and target setting, monitoring, auditing and reviewing, and ensuring that resources are available to help the head manage school H&S.
The Head Teacher by managing and implementing and overseeing the SMS. The Staff by cop-operating, consultation and assistance in implementing the systems. By doing this and
everyone playing their full part that school overall safety will be improved and accident levels drop.

Source: Free Guest Posting Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

About Article Author

Paddy Swan
Paddy Swan

Dr. Paddy Swan is a qualified teacher with senior management
experience in UK schools and colleges. He also has almost 25
years safety experience in industry. He has developed over
100 online and multimedia safe systems training solutions.
Paddy is the author of School Basic Safety for Classroom and
Support staff for UK schools and the Headteacher's Safety
Management Toolkit at http://www.swaneducation.co.uk

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