School Governors - Managing Health and Safety in your School

Oct 19


Paddy Swan

Paddy Swan

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School ... - Managing Health and Safety in your ... you need to know.If you read nothing else about Health and Safety read this. It’s about 1500 words long but it ... what you ne


School Governors - Managing Health and Safety in your 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 UK Health and Safety laws and regulations in 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 laid specific responsibilities on School dutyholders to manage Health and Safety.

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

Community, School Governors - Managing Health and Safety in your School Articles Community Special and Voluntary Controlled School Governors are NOT dutyholders as described under Health and Safety laws.

Who and what 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.

However, Governors in Community schools have control over budgets and need to support the head teacher, who is the “person responsible for the site”, and the main site dutyholder

•The LEA, the Foundation and/or the school may be the Employer and is a Body Corporate for the purposes of the Safety law and its’ enforcement.
oThat individuals as well as the school may be subject of enforcement if they do not carry out their duties.
Other Governing Bodies, Directors and Trustees and individuals may be dutyholders, as far as they exercise the function of employer in Foundation, Private or Voluntary Aided Schools.

What are the requirements to manage safety?
•The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations defined that all schools needed to manage safety. Thus 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 Governors need to be part of 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 duties for the school :

•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.
•Training - The H&S duties also mean that the School needs to train and give information /instruction to its’ staff and some visitors. These H&S duties mean that the school needs to be able to deem staff competent to play their part in the system. It also needs to deliver job specific training and/or instruction.
•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.
•Personal protective Equipment (PPE) – Flowing from the school Risk Assessment System control measure 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.
•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 works.
that all Risk Assessments, Policies, Procedures etc are appropriate to the specific circumstances of the school.

What are the duties of the Governors under 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.
•Under the Regulations there is a requirement under Safety law for School Staff to be consulted .
oA 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 and approximately 25% of all prosecutions for breaches which it made over 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.
The Governing Body and individual Governors need to support the Headteacher in carrying out their duty under the law and co-operate with any Employer.
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.
Any Governing Body, whether employer or not needs to be seen to be playing its’ full part in any school Safety Management System by oversight and target setting, monitoring, auditing and reviewing, and ensuring that resources are available to help the head manage school H&S.
By doing this and playing its’ full part the Governing Body should find that school overall safety will be improved and accident levels drop.

Background Reading and further information

HSE has a wide range of appropriate FREE and other documents which give guidance and advice available from

•HSE Five Steps to Risk Assessment -

•HSE A Guide to Risk Assessment Requirements -

•Need Help on Health and Safety -Comprehensive guide to sources of help INDG 322

•Information and Help on Work Related Stress from HSE available on

•Managing Health and Safety Successfully - Five Steps to Success INDG 275

•Violence at Work INDG 69(rev)

•Slips and Trips in the Education Sector - Education Information Sheet Number 2 - EDIS2

•Consulting Employees on Health and Safety - A Guide to the Law - INDG 232 and is the HSC statement, case studies and also lays out their policy for more worker participation.

•Reduce Risks Cut Costs -The real cost of accidents and ill health at work - INDG 355

•RIDDOR Information Sheet - RIDDOR Reporting What the Incident Contact Centre Can Do For You - MISC310(rev1)

•Workplace Health and Safety a Guide - INDG 244

•Health and Safety Training - What You Need to Know - INDG 345

•Use of Contractors - A Joint Responsibility - INDG 368

•Working Together - Guidance for working with Contractors and Suppliers - INDG 268(rev)

•Reporting School Accidents - Guidance for schools on RIDDORS

•The HSC's guidance documents, "Managing Health and Safety in Schools" (ISBN 0717607704) and "Health and Safety Guidance for School Governors" (ISBN 0717612988) can be obtained for £5.95 each from HSE Books on 01787 881165 or