I understand that I may be liable for the actions of contractors whilst they are at the school is this the case?
Yes, potentially you are, but there are simple solutions to this. A brief questionnaire to establish details of the contractor’s safety system will verify – for example – that Operatives are competent and that risk assessments have been completed. Using an ‘Approved suppliers’ list from the Local Authority ensures that the contractor’s systems have been scrutinised. Make sure that the work location is fully segregated and that warning signs are displayed. A sign-in sheet for Operatives will ensure that they understand some basic rules regarding safe working whilst on school premises.
I’m worried about the safety of the children while they are on school trips. What is your advice?
Most schools have good risk assessment procedures that govern school trips. But ask yourself some key questions. ‘Have the assessments been properly communicated? Are they short enough for staff to remember and apply the details? If the trip is of a nature whereby bad weather could prevent it, is there a ‘Plan B’? Do you involve the children themselves in the safety process as part of their learning experience? Do you train your staff in dynamic risk assessment? Do two people share the risk assessment process and discuss the relevant precautions and action?
A member of my staff has asked me about lone working policy / procedures. What are my responsibilities?
A very brief procedure / risk assessment is enough to cover this issue. Key questions are ‘Does the Lone Worker have any health weakness such as asthma or diabetes that could cause sudden loss of consciousness? Is security adequate? Will the lone working involve any high risk task such as work ‘at height’? Is there an immediate telephone link or arrangement with a ‘Buddy’? Also consider the use of portable emergency alarms that are remotely monitored.
I feel I should be doing more in terms of health and safety management but I am concerned about the expense.
There is a tremendous amount you can do to manage safety that is virtually cost-free, other than the expense of time taken to develop safe systems of work and ensuring ‘Competence’. Having the right procedures, efficient communication and the skills necessary to keep things simple are vital aspects of safety management.
As a Governor, I am concerned about safety, but I’m not sure how I should best support the Headteacher on this?
One key concern the governing Body should have is to ensure appropriate resources are devoted to safety, so let’s take ‘Fire’ as an example. A good strategy would be to have meetings with senior staff where searching questions posed by a ‘Critical friend’ are welcomed in order to ensure the school is able to provide the right answers in the event of a serious accident. For example, if the school were to suffer a serious fire, was the fire risk assessment up to date? Had required actions been completed? Had trained Fire Wardens been appointed? Were regular fire checks carried out? Was a safety logbook in position and up to date? Had appropriate duties been allocated? Were they carried out? Similar questions could be posed in respect of other safety topics such as ‘Work at height’ e.g. maintenance staff accessing roofs or potentially falling from ladders.