New School Year – New Start?

New School YearThe summer holidays are over and the new academic year is beginning so now is a good time for educational institutions to plan their Health and Safety activity for the coming months.

When planning for Health & Safety (H&S) it is wise to focus on the significant risks i.e. those likely to cause harm rather than superficial issues. To help with this the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has created a useful microsite highlighting sensible risk management called ‘Sensible health and safety management in schools’. In the site, HSE list the indicators of a sensible, well balanced approach to H&S management:

  • The school leadership team understand the safety policy and apply it practically to the real risks in the school
  • Key staff have clearly established roles and responsibilities
  • Paperwork is kept to a minimum with the significant hazards identified, their risks adequately controlled and precautions clearly documented where needed
  • School leaders consult with staff including employee / trade union safety representatives – looking for practical solutions to health and safety issues
  • Learning is enabled by making proportionate decisions

Each educational institution is different with their own risks that need to be managed but common issues include:

  • Adventure activities
  • Asbestos (recent HSE inspections resulted in 29% of schools receiving written advice from HSE and 13% receiving improvement notices)*
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Stress
  • Violence

Health and Safety is absolutely not about banning activities however it is unfortunately quite common to see schools appear on the HSE’s Myth Busters panel, including newsworthy incidents such as requiring pupils to wear goggles while playing conkers and enforced wearing of elasticated ties. However following sensible risk management principles allows the focus to stay where it should be: protecting teachers, pupils and others from serious harm and enabling education.

For further information visit HSE’s site

*Source: HSE.gov.uk

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