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Safer Schools Bulletin April 2014

Policy and Procedures Update:

As part of the continuing Health and Safety support and development for schools please be advised that '3.14 The Control and Management of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) in Council Owned and Occupied Buildings' 3.14 Asbestos D13591.57KB of the Health and Safety Manual has been updated.  Management Plans will also be updated and provided to all schools to support the Asbestos Survey for each individual school.

Remember as a 'Duty Holder' you must:

  • Make yourself and staff aware of the content of the asbestos, survey, assessment and management plan for your school;
  • Bring to the attention of all contractors the content of the asbestos, survey, assessment and management plan for your school.

News:

Council in court after schoolgirl seriously injured in lift shaft fall (February 2014)

City of Edinburgh Council has been fined after a schoolgirl was seriously injured when she fell more than five metres down a lift shaft and into a basement as teachers attempted to free her from a broken down lift. The HSE stated that while the teachers had the best intentions the accident could have been prevented had they had the right training and called for help.  

Morgan Seaton, then aged 15, sustained three fractured vertebrae, bruising over her lower back and a sprained wrist as a result of the incident at Liberton High School on 8 December 2011. She remained in hospital for two days before being discharged and was unable to return to school for a further two weeks.

After her return to school, she continued to suffer pain and discomfort in her back for several months and needed regular physiotherapy and medication.

The incident was investigated by HSE and a prosecution brought against the council for serious safety failings.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard yesterday (25 February) that Miss Seaton was in the lift with three other pupils when it stuck between the first and second floors. She called the school's office from her mobile phone and teachers quickly arrived and told the pupils to remain calm as they tried to affect a rescue.

Rather than use the emergency call button in the lift or call the fire service, teachers and the school janitor decided to fetch the lift key, open the doors and attempt to get the pupils out themselves.  After opening the lift shaft doors on the first floor, staff could see that the bottom third of the lift car was visible at the top of the door opening. They forced open the lift car doors and spoke with the pupils who were trapped within. 

One boy was helped to lower himself safely out of the lift down to the first floor corridor. Miss Seaton then manoeuvred herself out of the lift on her stomach until she was suspended feet first out of the opening. One of the teachers stood behind her as she attempted to drop to the floor but instead she fell through the gap between the bottom of the lift and the floor and into the lift shaft where she fell over five metres to the basement.

The court was told the fire service had found on arrival that power to the lift had not been isolated and the car could have resumed moving at any time during the pupils' ordeal or as the schoolgirl lay injured in the basement waiting for help to arrive.

HSE found that the council failed to ensure that staff at Liberton High School had been given sufficient instructions, information and training to deal with such incidents, and that no suitable risk assessment had been undertaken.

City of Edinburgh Council, of City Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh, was fined £8,000 after pleading guilty to breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. No costs are awarded in Scotland. 

Following the case, HSE Inspector Hazel Dobb, said: "A 15-year-old girl was seriously injured in an incident that was wholly preventable. As a result she spent several months in pain, her education was disrupted and her social life and part time job were both put completely on hold as she recovered.

"The teachers were well intentioned in their attempts to help, but had they received suitable information and guidance on how to deal with trapped people in lifts they would have called for help and not put pupils at such risk of injury.

"What was important was to make staff aware of the steps they ought to take in such situations. Simply distributing safety instructions to all staff and providing awareness sessions internally would have been sufficient. Unfortunately, this was not done because the risks associated with the use of the lifts had been entirely overlooked by the council."

A council spokesperson said: "We accept full responsibility for the incident at Liberton High School on 8 December 2011 and apologise unreservedly. We have now put in place measures at all schools with lifts to ensure no similar incidents should occur." (http://www.shponline.co.uk/in-court/in-court/full/council-in-court-after-schoolgirl-seriously-injured-in-lift-shaft-fall)

NB: Nick Waton (Building Services Engineer (Mechanical)/Energy Conservation Officer) is to provide list of lifts in the Borough and standard emergency procedures and these are to be sent to all schools to ensure that they are operating safely. Any schools not on the Asset Management list will be contacted separately.

Pupil killed after wall collapses at Edinburgh school (April 2014)

A 12-year-old girl has died after a wall at a school in Edinburgh collapsed and landed on top of her. Keane Wallis-Bennett was fatally injured in the incident at Liberton High School on the morning of the 1st April.  Crews from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services were sent to the school, but Keane was pronounced dead at the scene.

Thirteen-year-old pupil, Devon Blyth, told the BBC she had warned a teacher about an unstable wall in the girl's changing room where the incident took place.  She said the teacher had told her "it should be fine - and then this has happened".

Liberton High School, which has about 650 pupils, was built in 1959 and the PE accommodation was refurbished in the mid-1980s. 

A statement released by the City of Edinburgh Council said: "We understand the wall that collapsed was a free standing modesty wall in a changing room.  A full survey of all our schools, including Liberton High School, was carried out in 2012/13 and no concerns with this wall were identified. However, as a precaution, specialist council building services staff will be surveying all similar walls in schools where we know that they exist."

Following the incident, the school sent a text message to parents, which read: "Important. Accident at school. A pupil has sadly died. Her parents are aware. No-one else is injured."

An Edinburgh City Council spokesperson said senior education staff and health and safety officers from the council were providing support to staff and pupils. 

The HSE confirmed it was aware of the incident and was liaising with Police Scotland." (http://www.shponline.co.uk/home/news/full/pupil-killed-after-wall-collapses-at-edinburgh-school)

Legal Updates:

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (December 2013)

The revised version of L5 came into effect on 2 December 2013

Regulation 2 - Interpretation

The section on biological agents has been expanded.

Regulation 6 - Assessment of the risk to health created by work involving substances hazardous to health

  • Ensure 'Competency' of assessors
  • 'Implement the findings of the risk assessment before work proceeds.
  • 'Combined assessment' - employers may choose to combine their assessment with other risk assessments.

Regulation 7 - Prevention or control of exposure

  • Principles of good practice for the control of substances hazardous to health
  • Adequate control for exposure by inhalation -further detail about the test process and the mechanism for achieving a good seal - face fit testing.

Accidents and Incidents:

Electrical incident at South Shields Town Hall (December 2013)

Asset Management are to provide guidance to all 'Duty Holders' regarding the use/misuse of extension leads within Council owned buildings following a small electrical fire which took place on the 29/12/2013.

Governors Reports:

Briefing to Chairs of Governors 27/01/2014

Purpose of the report:

  1. To raise awareness of Client Health and Safety responsibilities when maintained schools procure contractors outside of the Asset Management and Design Service Level Agreement (SLA).
  1. To advise on the development of a process for maintained schools which decide to use contractors outside of the Asset Management and Design Service Level Agreement.

Help and Feedback:

If you have any questions about the issues raised or if I can help in any other way, please do not hesitate to contact Health and Safety.

I would also welcome your feedback generally on this publication and any key topics you would like to see in the next edition.

Further information:

http://www.shponline.co.uk/in-court/in-court/full/council-in-court-after-schoolgirl-seriously-injured-in-lift-shaft-fall

http://www.shponline.co.uk/home/news/full/pupil-killed-after-wall-collapses-at-edinburgh-school

http://www.shponline.co.uk/features/features/full/l5-coshh-acop-guidance-three-key-changes

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