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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 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 school need not take undue or unreasonably costly action to avoid all accidents at all costs. Even for accidents caused during horseplay courts have indicated that negligence or extreme recklessness needs to be demonstrably proven.
Reasonable safety is concept which is benchmark to judge response to safety matters against and provided 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 body which inspects and enforces Safety law and approximately 25% of all prosecutions for breaches which it made over were attributed to breaches of management duties under 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.
Finally Provided a school follows good practice and rules no one is likely to be at risk from enforcement or legal action. The Governing Body and individual Governors need to support Headteacher in carrying out their duty under law and co-operate with any Employer. They can do this by ensuring that safety is managed in school under a Safety Management System. This ensures that school is in compliance with 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 head manage school H&S. By doing this and playing its’ full part 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 www.hse.gov.uk.
•HSE Five Steps to Risk Assessment - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.pdf
•HSE A Guide to Risk Assessment Requirements - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg218.pdf
•Need Help on Health and Safety -Comprehensive guide to sources of help INDG 322 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg322.pdf
•Information and Help on Work Related Stress from HSE available on www.hse.gov.uk/stress
•Managing Health and Safety Successfully - Five Steps to Success INDG 275 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg275.pdf
•Violence at Work INDG 69(rev) http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg69.pdf
•Slips and Trips in Education Sector - Education Information Sheet Number 2 - EDIS2 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/edis2.pdf
•Consulting Employees on Health and Safety - A Guide to Law - INDG 232 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg232.pdf and http://www.hse.gov.uk/workers/involvement/index.htm is 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 355http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg355.pdf
•RIDDOR Information Sheet - RIDDOR Reporting What Incident Contact Centre Can Do For You - MISC310(rev1) http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/misc310.pdf
•Workplace Health and Safety a Guide - INDG 244 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg244.pdf
•Health and Safety Training - What You Need to Know - INDG 345 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg345.pdf
•Use of Contractors - A Joint Responsibility - INDG 368 http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg368.pdf
•Working Together - Guidance for working with Contractors and Suppliers - INDG 268(rev) http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg268.pdf
•Reporting School Accidents - Guidance for schools on RIDDORS http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/edis1.htm
•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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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