A Head Teacher's Safety Management Toolkit Article. htttp://www.swaneducation.co.uk
Educational Visits - Good Practice, Risks and Hazards
by Paddy Swan
Horror stories about British teachers taking Educational Visits and then being prosecuted for deaths seem always to be with us.
We have some 60,000 schools in UK and if each school only does one educational visit a year this is still a lot of visits. By law of averages something will go wrong somewhere sometime, but there have been about 4 prosecutions of teachers over last almost ten years. That is to say that out of probably 1 million educational visits about 4 teachers have been prosecuted and only 3 have been found guilty.
Manslaughter by gross negligence has been charge which has made UK teachers’ blood run cold and led one of our teacher Unions to circularise all members with advice on this topic.
The fact of matter is that no teacher has ever been prosecuted for following good practice and good practice for educational visits has been laid out by DfES and published in Guidance on their website, The Health and Safety Executive as regulators of UK health and safety have referred to this Guidance and thus given their imprimatur to what good practice actually is.
This article is about underlying principles to put in place good practice when a visit needs to be organised.
The key thing for any school to do is to ensure that a competent Group Leader or Educational Visit Co-ordinator is appointed. They need to be by Headteacher and Governors in writing. They also need to be competent not only, to run a visit but also, to carry out a HIRA (Hazard Identification Risk Assessment) for any proposed visit.
A HIRA is quite a specific matter in UK Health and Safety Law and terms and this article aims to introduce you to concepts and some of terminology, as well as giving you some tools to carry out a Risk Assessment.
Before any visit all visit Hazards need to be identified and Risks reduced.
What is a Hazard?
Simply put a hazard is anything that could cause harm.
•Uneven surfaces when mountain or fell walking, slippery conditions caused by ice and snow. •Children standing up in a moving minibus. •Children falling into water. •Hazards specific to a particular activity e.g skiing, swimming, or almost any activity or sport.
How would a visit organiser know about hazards on a site never visited or discussed with an experienced colleague?
What is a Risk?
The risk is likelihood that someone will be harmed by hazard.
On a visit, there may be many more hazards than you may think and if you are acting as EVC or as a single Group Leader for a small school, you may not have personal experience.
If you do not feel you know enough about a particular topic seek competent help. A search of websites and links from these can help you in this.
Steps must be taken to reduce risk of any hazard causing harm. This is done by removing or controlling risk. Controlling Risks
Generally it is better if hazard can be removed and if can’t be then it needs to be controlled.
For example, an instruction to children to remain seated in a moving vehicle must be enforced, if seatbelts are not fitted as standard.
The risk of children falling over if vehicle has to swerve or brake suddenly may be removed by seatbelts or reduced by controlling it by ensuring children remain seated.
This is a Control Measure.
The Control Measure is a method of reducing risk if it cannot be eliminated entirely.
If hazard cannot be removed it should be possible to eliminate, or substantially reduce risk by providing protection and isolating person from hazard by providing protection e.g. a guard on a powered tool or engine.
In other words, separate hazard from individual.
If separating person from hazard is not practicable, individual may be protected, for example, by wearing seat belts in a Minibus.
The Visit Group Leader/ EVC will need to be aware of Hazards and Risks of visit and will need to know how to carry out a Hazard Identification Risk Assessment for any visit or trip.
However, if you are unable to reduce risk to an acceptable minimum by these means, you inform your head teacher promptly.
If you have not competence to identify hazards and reduce risks for a particular activity seek help - some useful websites may be found through a simple search and DfES Guide itself goes some way towards identifying specific hazards
HIRA - procedure for reducing risks
•Identify Hazard •Assess Risk •Institute necessary Control Measures
The above procedure is known as a HIRA - Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment and it is one to be followed when completing Risk Assessments in Workplace or for carrying out a Risk Assessment for Visits.
Is Action taken sufficient?
You must train yourself to recognise hazards and take steps to eliminate them or to apply suitable control measures.
There is no such thing as absolute safety, hazards may be fairly minor, an uneven surface , for example, but risk may be high and outcomes, especially if risk of a trip is at top of flight of metal or concrete stairs.
In fact whole UK Health and Safety law is based around principle that you and employer carry out your duties "so far as is reasonably practicable".
This means that duties on employers are not absolute duties and a balance has to be struck between taking precautions and cost of those precautions.
This is why law is amplified by Precedents,Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) Codes and Guidances.
One explanation of words "reasonably practicable" is that such a duty is to be applied as far as is technically possible or feasible when weighing risks against costs of taking measures necessary for averting risks.
There is always scope for argument about what is and is not "reasonably practicable". But it is a fact that provided you follow good practice there is no need to fear any personal responsibility as a result of an accident.
The hazard of death by drowning during a visit to local swimming pool could be a major one but risk may be low because of supervision and flotation aids and trained First Aiders with expertise in Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on hand.
Equally, hazard of tripping whilst walking between demonstrations could be a minor one but risk may be high if children are allowed to run around in an uncontrolled way.
All Teachers need to know something about Risk Assessment and this is one of major points of this article highlighting how to look at Hazards and Risks as applied to educational visits and trips.
Risk Assessment for Educational Visits - General Procedures UK safety practice is laid down in Policies, Procedures, Guidance and Regulations which require Visit Group Leaders, Educational Visit CO-ordinators ,teachers and their employers to take following risk assessments and control steps. The Group Leader will take primary responsibility for reviewing and agreeing these for specific Educational Trip and Visit for which they may be appointed: