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Safer Schools Bulletin September 2017

South Tyneside Council Health and Safety Policy

Please see the updated link to the South Tyneside Council - Health and Safety Manual which connects into your school's Health and Safety Policy - this should be relayed to your staff.

Schools also need to ensure they consult with their staff, complete suitable and sufficient risk assessments and have policies in place covering statutory requirements.

Consulting with Staff

"Employers have a duty to consult with their employees, or their representatives, on health and safety matters.

Consulting employees about health and safety can result in:

  • a healthier and safer workplace - your employees can help you to identify hazards, assess risks and develop ways to control or remove risks;
  • better decisions about health and safety - they are based on the input and experience of a range of people, including employees who have extensive knowledge about their own job and the business;
  • a stronger commitment to implementing decisions or actions - as employees have been actively involved in reaching these decisions;
  • greater co-operation and trust - employers and employees who talk to each other and listen to each other, gain a better understanding of each other's views; and
  • joint problem-solving."

For more information please see HSE: Consulting employees on health and safety

Risk Assessments

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, require employers to make a suitable and sufficient assessments.

What is a Risk Assessment?

  • A careful examination of hazards
  • Identify any activity, machinery or substance that could potentially cause injury or death
  • Identify who could be harmed
  • Implement control measures to eliminate/reduce the risk

It is important to distinguish between hazard and risk:

  • a hazard is something with the potential to cause harm
  • a risk is the extent to which something harmful may happen - i.e. the combination of the likelihood and consequences of a specified hazardous event.

Templates and a list of standard risk assessments, as well as help from Health and Safety, is available.

Policy Templates

Health and Safety have been working with the schools to develop policy templates covering health and safety, slip, trip and falls, supporting pupils with medical conditions, etc. Please contact Health and Safety for help and advice when completing your statutory policies.

Training

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires you to provide whatever information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of your employees.

This is expanded by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which identify situations where health and safety training is particularly important, e.g. when people start work, on exposure to new or increased risks and where existing skills may have become rusty or need updating.

Training in schools can include; first aid, work at height, radiation, asbestos awareness, etc. To help decide what level of training your staff need complete a training needs analysis using the risk assessments and job descriptions.

HSE: Health and safety training

Competency Framework for Governance

In the 'Competency Framework for Governance' schools are expected to follow 16 competencies including 'Risk management' and 'Statutory and contractual requirements'. Someone on the Board must have the knowledge to understand their "duties and responsibilities in relation to health and safety in education" and everyone on the board must have the knowledge to comprehend "the board's responsibilities in regard to Equalities and Health and Safety legislation."

The document goes further by explaining the principals and personal attributes required to "set the culture, values and ethos of the organisation" and "foster a learning culture where constructive challenge is welcomed; thinking is diverse; a variety of experiences and perspectives are welcomed; and continuous improvement is the norm."

Health and Safety: Violence and Aggression in Schools

As part of the continuing Health and Safety support and development for schools, I thought it would be prudent to raise the profile of 'violence and aggression'. Like me, I am sure that you are aware of the many reports in the media concerning the increase in the number of incidents of violence and aggression towards staff, both nationally and locally and I am keen to help reduce the number of incidents.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines violence as "any incident in which an Employee is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances arising out of or during the course of their employment".

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the law requires each school to have a behavioural policy. This is to promote good behaviour, self-discipline and respect throughout the school, and prevent bullying. Good behaviour, both in and out of school, is a key ingredient to help reduce numbers of acts of violence and aggression within our schools.

An information pack will be provided to all schools which will include guidance on reviewing and updating your current policy to ensure that your school is operating to current DfE guidelines.  

Accidents / incidents advice

Girls' School fined after teacher seriously injured in fall from height - April 2017:

Westminster Magistrates' Court heard that on 9 May 2016 a teacher was conducting rigging and adjustments to spotlights and cabling in the school drama studio when he fell from a stepladder. A fellow teacher present in the room turned to find her colleague had fallen from the ladder and was unconscious on the drama studio floor having suffered multiple fractures to the skull, wrist and elbow as a result of the impact.

The court also heard that the defendant, Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School of Barnet, North London, had inadequately risk assessed work at height in its Drama Studio and had failed to provide the teachers conducting the work with sufficient training for work at height, despite these matters being requirements in its own health and safety policy, and despite the presence of a health and safety e-learning tool available for teachers and other staff to use, which included a module on work at height, but which was only made mandatory after the incident.

Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, the legal entity controlling the Academy converter school, pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 6(3) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, was fined £2000 and ordered to pay full prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector John Spence said: "If the school had conducted a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of the light rigging task and ensured that employees undertook the appropriate information, training and instruction available this incident could have been prevented."

Girls' School fined after teacher seriously injured in fall from height

Quarter of a million pound penalty for roof void fall - May 2017:

Quarter of a million pound penalty for roof void fall.

A solar panel installation company has been fined £250,000 after a worker suffered bleeding on the brain when he plunged through a roof void at a primary school in Bristol. The 49-year-old also sustained a fractured spleen and ribs in the 3.5 m fall.
 
Bristol Magistrates' Court was told that the victim had been contracted by Solarjen - formerly Paul O'Brien Solar Installations (SW) - to carry out work at Fairlawn School in Montpelier.
 
However, the firm had not erected guardrails to prevent its employees falling through voids in the roof. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also said it had failed to appropriately supervise the task.
 
Solarjen pleaded guilty to breaching reg 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 for failing to ensure the work at height was properly planned, supervised and carried out. It has been ordered to pay costs of £12,073.

Quarter of a million pound penalty for roof void fall

Work at Height advice and guidance:

Refurb contractors exposed to asbestos at primary school - July 2017:

The principal contractor on a London school refurbishment project and two contractors have been handed penalties totalling more than £1.5m after their failure to consider an asbestos survey left workers exposed to the dangerous fibres. 

A workman identified suspect asbestos-containing materials on 24 July 2012 when he removed part of a suspended ceiling at St Mary's School in Waltham Forest.

Asbestos fibres were subsequently found in several areas of the primary school.

The London Borough of Waltham Forest had a contract with NPS London to manage the development and refurbishment of its estate, Southwark Crown Court was told. NPS appointed Mansell Construction Services (now Balfour Beatty) as the principal contractor for the work, which subcontracted Squibb Group for the asbestos removal.

An asbestos survey had been carried out, the Health and Safety Executive found, but the companies "did not review the survey report in detail and did not take into consideration the multitude of caveats", inspector Sarah Robinson said.

Balfour Beatty Regional Construction was fined £500,000 plus £32,365 costs over the incident, after it pleaded guilty to breaching ss 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (HSW) Act. 

NPS London admitted breaching s 3(1) of the HSW Act and was fined £370,000 with costs of £32,365.

Squibb Group was found guilty of breaching s 2(1) of the HSW Act, fined £400,000 and ordered to pay costs of £175,000.

"The work undertaken did not adopt the high standards of control expected for working where there was the potential to expose workers to asbestos," Robinson added.

Refurb contractors exposed to asbestos at primary school

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 me.

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

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