Head Teacher's Safety Management Toolkit Article
Head Teachers - Managing Health and Safety in your Primary/Infant 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 managing Health and Safety to satisfy laws and regulations as they affect your school.
Changes to Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations(1999) (MSHW) as laid out in Regulations and their Guidance have made specific requirements and laid a responsibility on School dutyholders to manage Health and Safety in all UK Schools.
They need to do this by managing within a system. This is School Safety Management System(SMS) and every school should have one.
The head teacher as person with responsibility for a school site is a dutyholder as described in H&S laws.
What actually are dutyholders?
•Dutyholders are people with control over school safety. They are people who face enforcement action in event of anything going wrong. oIn main these are Employer and Headteacher. oIn any event Headteacher is person in control of site and a dutyholder in any school. The main duties of Employer are to provide resources and a framework of policies and some specific procedures and then to monitor and audit how H&S is implemented and managed.
Governors in Community schools have control over budgets and need to support head teacher, who is person responsible for site, and main site dutyholder but they are not dutyholders per se.
Who might action be taken against?
•The Employer, this is LEA, Foundation and/or school whoever may be regarded as employer under H&S law. The Employer can be an individual or like an LEA or school which is a Body Corporate for purposes of safety law and its’ enforcement.
o Non employer individuals as well as school may be subject of enforcement if they do not carry out their duties. This could apply to some Governor, Directors and/or Trustees and any individuals who may be dutyholders, as far as they exercise function of employer in Foundation, Private or Voluntary Aided Schools.
o Employees, Visitors and Contractors could also be subject of enforcement if they do not carry out their duties under H&S Law. This could apply to an individual who tampered with safety equipment or put someone at risk by negligence or incompetence.This could even be a pupil in a Secondary School who acts maliciously or in a grossly negligent way.So anyone on school site might be considered liable, except for children below age of criminal reponsibility.
However,it is Head Teacher who is main dutyholder and their main duty is to implement policies/procedures of Employer and manage Health and Safety on their site.
What are requirements to manage safety?
•The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations(1992 - 9) defined that all schools needed to manage safety. To do this 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 school .
This is School Safety Management System (SMS) and this a whole school issue and staff,governors and pupils need to be part of, and contribute to this system.
• The SMS needs to be used to manage safety actively as part of School’s normal operations. Having an SMS and operating it is part of normal work of school and should be accommodated in resources and budgets within school framework.
The SMS is framework within which school needs to address all its’ Health and Safety duties.
What are main H&S areas which Head Teacher needs to consider as duties?
•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 school SMS. Risk Assessment need not be overcomplicated but Risk Assessments need to be done by a COMPETENT Person.This means:
"A person with suitable, knowledge, skills, qualities and experience to carry out their taks without risk to their own health and safety or that of others." (Lord Cullen - Piper Alpha Report).
This person could be a teacher who has been deemed competent by virtue of their experience, GTC registration and experience. So a Science qualified member of staff is best person to carry out any Risk Assessment based around Science activities.
Equally a staff member who has taken many trips can carry out a Visits Risk Assessment.
What counts as adequate experience? How many trips is enough or appropriate?
This is a matter for your school SMS to define but, a competent person should always be appointed following a logical system and IN WRITING.
If you have not got in-house competence(a matter of judgement) you will need to call in outside assistance, applying same criteria to any outside consultant.
Has someone from an industrial H&S background enough competence to help you carry out a Risk Assessment for a Educational Visit? Probably not.
Your SMS needs to define how and when you should review and change risk assessments and what criteria you need to adopt for various actions. And remember, it is no earthly good adopting model Risk Assessments unchanged. All Risk Assessments must be pertinent and apply to your school and its' specific conditions.
•Training - H&S duties also mean that School needs to train and give information /instruction to its’ staff and some visitors. These H&S training duties mean that school needs to be able to deem staff competent to play their part in system.
It also means that school must deliver job specific training and/or instruction. The main areas of training defined by regulations and good practice include:
* Induction for all new staff and for specified visitors and contractors
* Basic Safety Requirement defined by your School SMS and which is sufficient H&S Training for staff to enable them to operate safely with awareness of duties,responsibilities, main hazards and risks and to enable them to play their part in School SMS.
* Job specific Safety training and Instruction - Training to enable member of staff to carry out their job role safely. e.g COSHH familiarisation for Cleaning Staff who use chemical cleaning agents.Instruction in a new piece of equipment and how to use it safely.
•Policies and Procedures – The school needs to have a School Health and Safety Policy and suitable procedures which should flow from risk assessments made. It is expected that all policies and procedures will be developed with input from, and consultation of ,staff. The Policy and Procedures need to be available to staff and should be reviewed regularly. The same criteria applies to Policies and Procedures provided as models for school as to Risk Assessments.