The Hidden Costs of School Accidents
If you work with small children, you know all too well the vigilance required in keeping them out of harm’s way. A little person’s natural curiosity, combined with a still-developing mastery of motor skills, means accidents can happen at a moment’s notice. Whilst some of these mishaps are unavoidable, it’s crucial that teachers and carers take every possible safety precaution to reduce the number of preventable accidents in the school setting.
Clearly, the most important goal is to prevent children – and staff, for that matter – from injuring themselves. But beyond that, accidents in primary schools, pre-schools and nurseries can have an even bigger impact. While insurance will probably cover most tangible, up-front costs, you should consider what we call the ‘hidden costs’ as well.
Loss of Time and Resources
First, there’s the hidden cost of time and resources. When a school accident happens, teachers and staff members are called away to help the child, calm or divert the other students, seek further care if necessary, resolve what happened and file health and safety reports. Time spent on these post-accident activities takes away from time spent doing the work at hand – teaching and running the school.
Disruption for Teachers and Students
Along those lines, there is the effect of disruption on the other students. Depending on the age of the students and the severity of the accident, some children may be upset; others may be fascinated to know what happened and generally making a fuss or misbehaving. In any event, if teachers are called away to deal with an incident, the other children can be left unattended just at the moment they may need extra supervision or reassurance.
Replacements Costs of Injured Staff
Remember too, it’s not always a child who gets injured. If the accident involves a member of staff who then requires time off work, there can be significant repercussions for the school. Either you could find yourself short-handed, which places undue stress on the rest of the staff and stretches limited resources, or you may have to find a replacement at short notice – and that creates an added cost that could strain your budget or divert from other expenses.
Damage to the School’s Reputation
Finally, and perhaps most seriously, there’s the potential of damage to your school’s reputation. When an accident happens at a school, news spreads very quickly, first amongst the children but then especially the parents. When parents hear of an injury happening to a child at your school, they can become very worried that the same could happen to their child. Whether warranted or not, they could lose trust in the standard of care, spread negative stories to other parents in the community, or call in at the school to complain or demand answers – all of which causes undue pressure on head teachers and school administrators.
For evidence of how damaging an accident can be, not only to the child but to the school, one need only look at recent cases that made the news. In April, Salford City Council was fined £20k after a six-year old child lost the tips of three of his fingers when he got his hand caught in the school gate. HSE prosecuted after it was found that the school had been advised of the dangers, and failed to take action. That same month, a charity in Bolton was prosecuted for failing to ensure finger guards were in place at a new school, and a child lost his index finger after it was trapped in a school door. As the HSE Inspector said after the hearing, “It’s vital that organisations do more than just identify risks and actually make sure measures are in place to tackle any dangers.”
As we know, not every accident can be avoided. But there are precautions you can take – especially with doors, windows, screens and sockets – that will both prevent some of the most common mishaps and save you the hidden costs of school accidents. And it’s clear that the HSE will prosecute in cases where there has been a risk assessment and the school fails to take action. For more information about school safety and security products, please visit our website.