Schools: Are You Ready For a Health & Safety Inspection?
What would happen if your school was the subject of a health and safety inspection by the Health & Safety Executive or Ofsted today? Are you confident that you’d pass with flying colours, or are you now worrying that they’d find significant issues – or even that you aren’t abiding by the law?
Compliant with Legislation
It is imperative for school managers to ensure that they are fully compliant with all relevant legislation and Codes of Practice or they risk serious sanctions.
In terms of legislation, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 covers schools and they must comply with the regulations set out to maintain the safety of staff and pupils alike.
Health & Safety Policy
Every school should have a Health & Safety Policy in place, typically set by the Local Education Authority and monitored and reviewed on a regular basis by the school’s governing body.
It is up to the LEA to inform schools of any changes to the policy but it is up to the governing body to ensure any changes required are carried out.
The day to day implementation of the Health & Safety Policy lies with the head teacher, supported by all staff and employees.
A school Health & Safety Policy should cover the following areas at least:
• Fire Safety – including details of fire exits, extinguishers and other equipment.
• Accidents – including recording and monitoring, first aid and reporting (to the LEA and/or parents as necessary).
• Hazards – including reporting, remedies and maintenance.
• Electrical Safety – including equipment checks, certification and maintenance.
• Hazardous Substances – including storage and use.
• Equipment – including storage, inspection and maintenance.
• Health & Hygiene – including standards, checks and infections/diseases along with exclusion periods (staff and pupils).
• Medicines – including policy on administration, storage and use (if required).
• Building Hygiene – including cleaning policy, monitoring and reporting.
• Security – including reporting of vandalism and theft, damage repairs, suspicious activity.
• Outdoor/Off Site Visits – including risk assessments, parental consent and organisation.
With a policy in place – and adhered to – head teachers and governors should have no fear of an inspection. Just in case though, here’s what Ofsted has to say about inspections – and what you can do to ensure it’s a smooth process.
“…[Ofsted] has no specific criteria in place for evaluating health and safety in schools…[Inspectors] will take prompt and appropriate action on any safeguarding or health and safety issues.”
That may not seem particularly helpful but all it really means is that schools should adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act, be maintained to a high standard and reasonable safety and security precautions should be put in place and monitored regularly.
Ofsted’s School Inspection Handbook backs this up, stating:
“Children’s health, safety and well-being are greatly enhanced by the vigilant and consistent implementation of robust policies and procedures.”
Indeed, this is the only reference to health and safety with regard to affecting a school’s grade.
While inspectors will not be looking for anything specific, they will take note of potential health and safety hazards and will seek assurances that remedies are in hand to put them right.
The HSE and the Department for Education provide a wealth of guidance when it comes to health and safety in schools. School governors and head teachers should read the following:
- Health and safety in schools (DfE)
- Health and safety checklist for classrooms (HSE)
- Health and safety: advice on legal duties and powers (DfE)
All in all then, in order to be ready for a HSE or Ofsted inspection schools need to prove that they provide that “vigilant and consistent implementation of robust policies and procedures”.
To speak to us about improving the safety of your school, give us a call on 0161 413 0766 or contact us here.