Managing Health and Safety in schools can be a complex and challenging job. The variety of activities that students undertake in classes can mean that keeping on top of risk assessment, inspections and audits, as well implementing, reassessing and updating different health and safety measures, feels like a constant struggle to keep on top of.
Different classes and subjects come with their own Health and Safety challenges. At any one moment, one class could be using Bunsen burners in a science lab, while another is playing contact sports on the field, while another class is out visiting a construction site on a school trip.
Safeguarding students, staff and visitors, as well as maintaining compliance with Health and Safety legislation in schools can feel daunting, but when it’s done correctly it will help facilitate excellent learning experiences for young people.
To help, we wanted to pull together a health and safety checklist for schools, taking into our account our experience in dealing with clients in the Education sector.
Classrooms and Corridors
Risk assessments need to be undertaken across the site. For individual classrooms, the Health and Safety Executive has provided a checklist to save time and resource on individual risk assessments. Across the site, you should be looking out for risks and hazards including:
- Slips, trips and falls
- ensure corridors and walkways are clear
- flooring is in good condition
- steps, ramps and uneven areas of flooring are visible and highlighted
- trailing leads and cables are prevented wherever possible, and taped/covered to avoid trip hazards if not
- lighting is bright enough to allow safe movement around the school and classrooms
- measures are in place to deal quickly with spillages and slip hazards
- Access stairs and ramps are properly maintained with handrails in place.
- Work at height
- “elephant foot” step ladders are available in areas where working at height is necessary
- High-level windows are provided with window openers
- Furniture and fixtures
- Wall mounted furniture is securely attached e.g. cupboards, shelves and display boards, etc.
- Desks, seats and stools are in good condition and are the appropriate size for the user (e.g. adult or child)
- Portable equipment e.g. trolleys are in good working order
- Hot surfaces like radiators are covered to prevent burns
- Window restrictors on upper floor windows are in good working order
- Manual handling
- Suitable trolleys and lifting equipment is available for heavy objects
- Correct training has been provided to the appropriate staff
- Electrical equipment
- Cables are in good condition
- Wall plugs and electrical fittings are in good condition
- PAT testing has been carried out in the last year on portable electrical devices such as laminators
- Damaged equipment has been removed from classrooms and common areas.
- Fire exits and routes are clearly marked, unlocked, unobstructed, and easy to open from the inside
- Maps of exit routes and floor plans are visible across the site
- Fire fighting equipment such as fire extinguishers and fire blankets are present and in good working order across the site
For specialist classrooms such as science labs, drama and sports facilities, art rooms, IT rooms, or design and technology facilities, a further risk assessment will be required to cover specialist equipment and activities.
Risk assessment software can simplify this process and help to create documents that are easy to share and update.
As with any public building or site, proper management of the facilities is essential to ensure the safety of the students, teachers, staff and visitors. This includes:
- Gas Safety
- Inspections need to be carried out every 12 months to ensure equipment is in good working order and risk of leakage is minimised.
- Electrical Safety
- PAT testing, cable inspections, up to date inventory of electrical equipment
- Legionella risk assessments completed regularly (the timescale depends on the facilities you have – usually annually, but more often if your site has water coolers, swimming pools or spa equipment).
- Fire Risk
- The fire alarm system is in good working order and is tested frequently
- Fire evacuation procedures are in place and drills carried out regularly
- Risk assessment of where it is and how best to deal with it until it can be removed
- Awareness training for staff on where it is across the site
Scheduling, auditing and inspection software can help you to keep on top of inspection cycles and remain compliant, as well as delegate tasks to team members to ensure that all actions are complete.
School trips and outings have valuable benefits for students, however, often misunderstandings about the level of paperwork and detailed risk assessment can discourage schools from organising them.
In reality, the level of risk assessment for school trips should be proportionate to the activity involved, and should only focus on real risks, not risks that are trivial or fanciful.
Simple, lower risk trips should be quick and easy to organise, while higher-risk activities, like adventure sports or water-based activities, are properly planned and assessed. The main aim of health and safety planning on a school trip is to ensure that learning opportunities are experienced in full, whilst real risks are managed effectively.
Some things to plan for:
- Group size – ensure you have enough staff with you to be able to supervise and manage the number of students on the trip. It’s important to consider any special education needs the group might have and students who may require extra support. Partner systems, frequent head counts and opportunities to regroup are recommended.
- Medical conditions – be aware of any existing medical conditions, serious allergies, dietary requirements or disabilities within the group, and be prepared for dealing with any related issues whilst on the trip.
- Travel – ensure that you know exactly how your group is going to travel to their destination. If using an external transport company, ensure they’re in possession of the correct licences and insurance.
- Communication – ensure all staff are aware of the itinerary for the trip and any measures that are in place to manage risks. Communicate to your students and their parents/guardians what is expected of them, what precautions they need to take to manage risks where necessary, and what to do if they become separated from the group or what to do if they need assistance. Make itineraries, risk assessments, emergency procedures and other important information available to all attending staff before and during the trip using cloud-based sharing. Ensure you can access information whilst offline, so information is available wherever you are.
- Emergency procedures – ensure you have a number of first aiders amongst the staff attending, and that medical information is easy to obtain for each staff member.
- Seek support and advice before the trip – it’s always useful to go over your plans with a colleague to ensure that you’ve prepared for every real risk. Ensure that you take heed of advice from expert sources, e.g. those with local knowledge; instructors and tour guides; weather warnings etc.
Whilst the health and safety challenges for schools and other educational institutes are changing regularly, it simply requires frequent and robust processes and a clear knowledge of what’s going on and the risks these activities could impose, to keep students, staff and visitors safe. For some, incident reporting and management software can make the process simpler.
If you’d like to find out more about how Notify can help your school, college or University, get your free account here.