While not every accident can be prevented, introducing a culture of health and safety in schools is about taking sensible steps to create a safe space for students and teachers. It is a legal requirement too, with the Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978 requiring the employer in a school to take reasonable steps to ensure that staff, visitors and pupils are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. This applies to activities both on and off school premises and includes school trips.
To reduce the need for teachers and support staff to complete lengthy and time consuming written assessments for day-to-day classroom activities, schools should introduce measures to help reduce slips and trips, electrical faults and other common risks.
There are some key elements that make up a practical Health and Safety policy to help ensure that schools maintain a certain level of risk management. When introducing a Health and Safety policy and carrying out the associated risk assessments, schools should ensure that they have a system in place for the following:
- Training for staff in health and safety, including risk assessments for activities;
- Recording and reporting accidents for staff, pupils and visitors;
- School security;
- Manual handling;
- Work at height; and
- Fire safety.
Of course, the larger the school and the higher the risk associated with a particular school’s activities the more in-depth their risk management needs.
Your Health and Safety policy should state what it covers and who is responsible for each area. You should also incorporate how you will monitor and review measures over time to ensure that the policy remains relevant.
If an incident does occur, then as long as you have remained vigilant and have carried out regular checks it is unlikely that you’ll face a criminal sanction. While an incident could leave an individual member of staff or employer open to civil action, as long as the school has taken care of the child to the standard of a prudent parent then it is unlikely to be successful.