Health and safety responsibilities in schools derive in the main from the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and associated regulations. Health and safety duties and responsibilities apply to employers of school staff and employees. In practice employers may delegate specific health and safety tasks to individuals, but the employer retains the ultimate responsibility no matter who carries out the tasks. The employer should therefore maintain records, making clear who is responsible for tasks and confirming that they are being carried out effectively.
The health and safety of staff, pupils and visitors while on school premises or involved in school-organised activities (e. g. educational visits) must be protected as far as is reasonably practicable. Risk assessments should be undertaken for all activities and measures put in place to minimise or control risks. If schools fail to develop and implement the necessary health and safety policies this can have serious consequences. The case of an 11 year old pupil who died from an asthma attack after being left in a school corridor by a teacher is a tragic example of this.
The inquest into this death delivered a verdict of ‘death by natural causes, contributed to significantly by neglect’. The hearing highlighted a lack of policy and training at the school on the nature of asthma, and what school staff are required to do to protect pupils in their care. It is therefore of paramount importance that schools: have appropriate health and safety policies in place which clearly explain the school’s duties and responsibilities review and monitor compliance with these policies, and ensure that all staff receives the appropriate training and development to deliver these policies and discharge the school’s responsibilities effectively.
The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 This act places the responsibility of ensuring the health and safety and welfare of employees, with the employer. The main ways that this is usually implemented in a school setting are: Ensuring that there is an effective way of reporting any hazards to the appropriate person so that any required action can be taken.
Every school is required to carry out regular risk assessments of the premises and activities to identify any hazards in advance, but all members of staff should also be aware that risk assessment is an on-going process, and that they must remain vigilant and report any potential hazards to the Health and safety officer. Each school must put in place its own Health and safety policy and ensure that all staff are trained in its contents. All staff should take ownership for, not just their own safety, but also ensuring that their actions, or lack of action, does not cause harm of danger to others e. . if staff use equipment it must be cleared away properly and if staff see a potential hazard it must be reported appropriately. If safety equipment is provided, then staff must ensure it is used at all times e. g. if gloves are provided for using hazardous materials in science, then they must be worn. All equipment used within schools should meet recognised standards of safety. This can usually be checked by ensuring that the product displays on of the following safety symbols The Kite mark shows that the product has been tested and meets the appropriate British Standard.