Sep 9, 2019 | Blog

Managing risk in educational establishments

by Paul Duff

The start of September sees schools, academies, colleges and universities gearing up for a new academic year. Lights are turned on; classroom doors are unlocked and stationery cupboards organised.

For many educational establishments, the health and safety implications of welcoming staff, students and visitors back through the door are limited. Some well-planned risk assessments, an assurance that staff are aware of reporting processes and low-level vigilance can be all that’s required to tick the boxes.

However, for those establishments with older buildings, split campuses or multiple sites, the role of the health and safety team becomes more complex. Students and staff aren’t the only people to whom there is a duty of care; visitors and passers-by all fall under the care of the college, academy or university.

Asbestos in the education sector

One of the many health and safety issues faced by educational establishments is asbestos.

Banned in the UK back in 1985 due to links with cancer, asbestos still causes problems in buildings up and down the country today.

According to the Department for Education (DfE), there are hundreds of state-funded schools and academies in England which still contain some amount of asbestos in their fabric. Furthermore, around 670 have been reported to the HSE because they haven’t provided evidence that they’re managing that asbestos in line with ‘regulatory requirements’. 

If we were to look at the college and university buildings across the UK, that number would increase again, dramatically.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that, since 2001, around 300 teaching and educational professionals have died of mesothelioma – a cancer almost exclusively linked to asbestos exposure.

What’s more, a study carried out in 2018 suggested that there were five times more deaths from mesothelioma among teachers than had ever been found in professions not exposed to asbestos.

These are scary figures

This is just one issue facing academies, colleges and universities the length and breadth of the UK. That’s why we’ve worked hard to create a health and safety reporting platform that will help educational establishments fulfil their duty of care to students, staff, visitors and the general public.

Making the platform available to everyone involved, including visitors, Notify IM ensures there are eyes and ears everywhere in an organisation, to flag up any health and safety issues there and then.

Duncan Davies, our founder, explains more:

“Our vision at Notify is to ensure that technology makes keeping people safe and well, simple and efficient. Reporting incidents, issues and near-misses shouldn’t be a laborious process – if it is, people are put off reporting things, which leads to more significant problems down the line.

“We aim to make reporting issues, such as disturbed asbestos, really simple. Issues like this cost lives and we want to make reporting problems before they become a threat to life the most simple and natural thing within all workforces.”

Notify IM, our mobile phone app, provides staff, students and visitors with a straightforward way to report any health and safety concerns they have. The system is highly configurable, meaning it’s suitable for all organisations no matter the size, complexity or location. 

A recent case study of our client, Birmingham City University (BCU) highlights the bespoke nature of our application and just how it is being used in a sophisticated, multi-site educational establishment.

BCU’s challenge

BCU spans three campuses throughout the city of Birmingham and is made up of buildings old and new. Refurbishment projects and new builds have provided many challenges for the health and safety team at the university.

With a wide range of risks and hazards, combined with the university’s need to ensure the safety of a significant number of people, BCU needed a simple and intuitive solution to the problem of reporting incidents and near misses.

Simon Dunn, BCU’s Head of Health and Safety, wanted something flexible but comprehensive – not just the tick-box solution offered by other platforms.

Notify’s solution

We always work closely with our clients to establish their needs precisely. We worked with Simon and his team to draw out the exact nature of BCU’s reporting requirements and came up with a solution that is now available to all staff, students and visitors. 

The platform allows them to provide invaluable information into accidents and near-misses, whilst the data enables Simon and the team the ability to investigate, identify trends and, crucially, take action on issues as quickly as possible.

No health and safety team can be everywhere, all the time – and that challenge is magnified over split campuses and multiple sites. 

Our platform has enabled the BCU Health and Safety team to have eyes and ears on the ground in every location and has led to a marked increase in incident reporting every week.

Read the full case study and outcomes here.

If you work in education and would like further information about Notify IM and how it can help your school, college or university, get in touch and let’s set you up with a free trial.

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