Luckily, it is now easy for schools to take advantage of thorough safety courses provided by training specialists. By making sure that the relevant personnel have had suitable health and safety training, schools can help to minimise the risk of any accidents.
The main legislation that relates to safety in schools is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Under the regulations detailed in this act, the employer is responsible for health and safety, although tasks may be delegated to staff members. The employer could be the local authority, the governing body or a proprietor. Meanwhile, employers and staff members have a duty under the common law to protect students in the same way that prudent parents would.
Training for teachers
Employers are required to make sure that personnel, including teachers, are provided with the necessary health and safety training. Workers whose roles involve greater elements of risk may need more training than other staff members. For example, teachers who operate and supervise woodworking machines or other potentially dangerous items of equipment will need extra training. Personnel who take children on trips away from school may also need additional safety training to help them mitigate any risks.
Duties of school workers
Under the law, school workers are required to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who might be affected by the work they do. They’re also expected to cooperate with their employers on issues concerning health and safety. In addition, they must do their work in line with the training and instructions they receive and with their school’s written health and safety policy. If teachers feel that certain safety procedures aren’t appropriate, they can discuss the issue with their employers and request that they are reviewed. Usually, headteachers work with employers to help ensure that procedures within schools are effective and proportionate.
Successful health and safety training for teachers should help them to strike the right balance between protecting pupils and allowing them to benefit from an effective and engaging education. They must take reasonable measures to ensure that dangers are minimised, but they shouldn’t take risk management to excessive levels. This can restrict youngsters’ learning opportunities. On this point, the Department for Education (DfE) says: “Children should be able to experience a wide range of activities. Health and safety measures should help them to do this safely, not stop them.”
Elaborating on this point, the department remarks: “School employers should always take a commonsense and proportionate approach, remembering that in schools risk assessment and risk management are tools to enable children to undertake activities safely, and not prevent activities from taking place.”
As long as they are provided with suitable training and receive all the information and support they require when it comes to promoting safety, teachers and other school workers should be able to minimise dangers to pupils without allowing this to take over and compromise youngsters’ educations.
What measures do you take to handle health and safety in your school? Let us know in the comments.