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Safer Schools Bulletin April 2018

Managing stress at work

The Council, as an employer, places a high value on maintaining a healthy workforce and ensuring a safe working environment for all of its employees. The Council also recognises that this duty of care extends to mental health as well as physical health at work.

Mental health problems have many causes, including stresses in the workplace and in the life of employees away from work. A controllable level of pressure can in some cases lead to improved motivation, job satisfaction and performance, but In contrast, excessive pressure can become harmful and result in stress.

The Council is committed to identifying sources of stress in the workplace and taking action to reduce harmful stress and secure the health of the workforce.

Definition of stress

The Health and Safety Executive defines stress at work as follows:

"Stress is the reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed upon them, and arises when an individual believes they are unable to cope".

Every job brings its own pressures and demands, these are an unavoidable part of working life. Some pressure can be a good thing, keeping staff motivated and providing a sense of achievement and job satisfaction. However, people's ability to deal with pressure is not limitless. Excessive workplace pressure can cause stress, which may be harmful.

Individual Action and Unacceptable Stress

Any employee who feels that they are at risk of unacceptable stress should follow the advice given below:

  • It is important not to feel stressed to a point where it becomes intolerable, by taking action early, it is possible to minimise the harmful effects of stress.
  • It is important to speak (or if easier, to write) to your immediate supervisor or manager as soon as possible, they may be unaware of the stress you feel you are under and may be able to make changes, to alleviate the situation.
  • Make an appointment through your Manager with the Occupational Health Nurse/ Adviser or contact the Counselling Service directly.
  • Seek the advice and support of your Union.
  • If the informal approach above does not work for you, then you may wish to take advice about the Council's Grievance Procedure if the cause of your stress is work based.

Further information can be found in the South Tyneside Council - Health and Safety Manual and Mind: How to manage stress

South Tyneside Council Health & 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.

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.

All health and safety link governors should attend awareness sessions to ensure that they fully understand their duties and responsibilities in relation to health and safety in education and complete their key tasks.

A training session 'Health and Safety for School Governors' takes place on Tuesday 5th June 2018 at South Shields School commencing 13:30.

Health and Safety: Violence & Aggression in Schools

A draft 'Behaviour Policy Template' is currently being reviewed and will be made available to all schools before the summer break.


"Bridgend County Borough Council to face prosecution following death of school pupil

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has informed Bridgend County Borough Council that it will be prosecuted following the death of Ashley Daniel Talbot, a pupil at Maesteg Comprehensive School, on 10 December 2014.

Ashley was a 15 year old pupil at Maesteg Comprehensive who was involved in a collision with a minibus on the school grounds. He suffered multiple injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The family of Ashley Talbot have been informed that Bridgend County Borough Council will be prosecuted over his death.

Bridgend County Borough Council will appear in court at a date to be confirmed, to face a charge under Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act."

HSE Bridgend Council 2018

"A construction company has been fined after it carried out unsafe and unlicensed asbestos removal during refurbishment works in a junior school in Dursley.

Cheltenham Magistrates Court heard how, in October 2016, R F Gardiner Limited removed asbestos in an unsafe manner and did not have the appropriate licence to carry out the work. Operatives working for the company were exposed to high levels of airborne asbestos fibres during the removal work as no water suppression was used and they had not been face-fit tested for the face mask they were wearing.

An enclosure under negative pressure was not set up to contain the asbestos fibres released during the removal and as such asbestos fibres were spread to the surrounding area. Workers also had no way of decontaminating onsite on completion of the work.

The HSE's investigation found that poor planning of the work meant that unsafe and unlicensed asbestos removal work was undertaken.

R F Gardiner Limited of Cirencester Road, Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 8(1), 11(1) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. It was fined £28,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,141.80.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector James Lucas said: "The company in this case should have ensured appropriate measures were identified during the planning process to include the engagement of a licensed asbestos contractor to carry out correct control measures and safe working practices for the removal of the asbestos.

"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards." SHP Online 2018

When hiring contractors for construction work, you must ensure that they are trained and competent to complete the works safely. Following the correct vetting procedure can ensure you have done everything practicable to ensure a safe contractor, safe site and works completed on time. The health and safety team can assist you with the vetting process.

Fire Compartmentation

Put simply, if a fire starts in one room (compartment), fire and smoke should not be able to spread to another room (compartment) for a specified period of time.  Typically this is 30 minutes but in some circumstances could be an hour or more.

  • Sub-dividing buildings into compartments helps restrict the spread of fire.

  • During any construction work it is essential that the spread of fire is taken into consideration.

  • If fire compartmentation is breached during works or fire stopping materials are removed or altered in any way, under the RRO (Regulatory Reform Order) Fire Safety 2005 the responsible person for the building must have the material reinstated to the approved standard.

  • Any works commissioned must include fire compartmentation within the specification and consider any reinstatement works including how this work is inspected to ensure it meets current requirements.

  • STC have introduced a formal procedure which should be followed if works are to impact on any compartmentation walls, floors or ceilings. Please contact Asset Management or for schools who chosen to opt out of Council Services your Architect for further details.

Statutory Compliance Testing & Maintenance of School Premises & Property

No-one would disagree that ensuring your buildings are safe and legally compliant is a fundamental requirement for any school.

That's why South Tyneside Council aim to provide a high standard of accommodation and services.  The Council, School Heads, Managers and Governors have a duty to maintain the accommodation in compliance with the various regulations and legal requirements, as well as council policies.

Your Legal Duties

If you have chosen to opt out of Council Services, you now have responsibility for significant elements of building maintenance.

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 - Regulation 5 - Maintenance of workplace, and of equipment, devices and systems:

"(1) the workplace and the equipment, devices and systems to which this regulation applies shall be maintained (including cleaned as appropriate) in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

(2) Where appropriate, the equipment, devices and systems to which this regulation applies shall be subject to a suitable system of maintenance."

One of these responsibilities is that you must arrange for the testing, at the appropriate frequency, of various items of plant and equipment.

This is not an option, as failure to comply will contravene Health & Safety legislation and may result in fine or prosecution. Failure to perform these tasks may also invalidate your school insurance cover.

If properties fail to be in compliance, South Tyneside Council, are within their rights to carry out the work and charge accordingly:

"Where the local authority is the employer (community, voluntary controlled, community special schools and maintained nursery schools), it may give a direction concerning the health and safety of persons (including pupils) on the school's premises or taking part in any school activities elsewhere. Under section 29(5) of the Education Act 2002, governing bodies of such schools must comply with any such direction from the local authority." Page 8 Health and safety advice for schools

It is advisable to identify a "competent person" to lead on statutory compliance matters and make sure the requirements of their role are written down. This prevents ambiguity and issues occurring because of confused responsibility.

Compliance Management Handbook (CMH)

Although the CMH has been tailored towards Community and Voluntary Controlled schools, head teachers and Governors of Voluntary Aided, Foundation Trust and Academy schools may find the information contained in the guide useful.

The CMH provides a brief explanation of the main areas of compliance monitoring that a premises manager would be expected to be aware of and implement. This is by no means comprehensive, Health and Safety Law is becoming less and less prescriptive and does not normally provide specific details with regard to inspection and testing frequencies and regimes. It now focuses more on risk based assessments which can be very much dependent upon individual circumstances such as; the use the building is put to, the users groups, the construction, age and condition of the building, previous maintenance regimes, and the building location. It is therefore often left to the responsible person to decide, once a risk assessment has been carried out what the control measures should be. Therefore the CMH merely provides an outline of the law covering this area and for further detail and specific information for individual circumstances it will be necessary to refer to the relevant legislation, approved Codes of Practice and/or British Standards.

The plant and equipment provision in schools will vary and, whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information is comprehensive, you must establish that all your existing plant and equipment is included in their statutory compliance testing and refer to the manufacturer's specific guidance when new equipment is installed. Each school must ensure that testing is carried out only by those that are qualified and competent to do so. Certificates upon completion must be obtained and actioned accordingly.

Use of contractors

Only South Tyneside Council approved contractors should be used to undertake works. If the contractor is not approved the school must carry out its own accreditation at least to the standard of SSIP.

Premises managers must ensure that any external contractors coming onto the schools site have all the relevant Health & Safety certificates and background checks (DBS).

Additional information regarding managing contractors and construction Design and Management 2015 can be found Health and Safety Manual 2017

Head Teachers must liaise with the Asset Management Team regarding any building alterations or changes in the use of the building.

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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