Health & Safety Matters
It is estimated that 200-300 people will die each year because of exposure to asbestos as a child while at school. This number will increase for the foreseeable future. The DfE carried out a review of asbestos in schools between January and March 2014. The report on this was due to be published in July, then September and then November. It has not yet seen the light of day. The NUT are attempting to put pressure on the government to release this report, but we haven't had any success as yet. The HSE has advised against making asbestos management training for heads mandatory.
Academies have been unable to obtain public liability insurance to protect themselves against claims for asbestos exposure, although a scheme known as the Risk Protection Arrangement was introduced in February 2014 at a cost of £25 per pupil per year. Uptake has been poor. If Labour wins the election they have pledged to continue with the National Steering Group on asbestos in schools. It's doubtful that the Conservatives will.
The instruction concerning gas masks in schools has been strengthened to say that NO original WW1 or WW2 masks or Brodie Helmets should be brought into schools. It is possible to obtain replicas which are safe but care must be taken because it's still possible to obtain originals on EBay.
The good news
Following representations from the NUT the asbestos team from LCC have reviewed aspects of their asbestos management. All asbestos containing ceilings have been reviewed and gaps between the tiles and their mounts have been sealed. If funding permits, a review will consider the removal of asbestos containing ceilings in 2015, even if they are considered to be in good condition. A review of the effectiveness of the training regarding asbestos given to Building Responsible Officers is underway. Air tests have been repeated in CLASP schools. A rolling programme of retesting will now take place so that rooms should be tested every other year. This has so far cost LCC £15,270.
The contract to AMICA for providing a counselling service has been extended by two years at no increased cost to the authority.
Although the government reduced the minimum legal working temperature for schools to 16℃ in line with most other workplaces, the overriding principle is that conditions must be reasonable. It can certainly be argued that it's not reasonable for children to be asked to sit and work in cold conditions. If heads are unwilling to sort out heating problems, it would also be worth pointing out that children are unlikely to be able to learn when they're too cold.
Paths that have to be used be members of staff and/or students should be safe for the purpose. If they are slippery they are certainly not safe. Any snow or ice that presents a problem should be removed before staff can reasonably be expected to arrive at work.
Education H&S Committee - in brief
A new Administration of Medicines policy has been issued to schools but this should have little, if any, effect on teachers. Some concern was expressed that one school appears not to be using Team Teach as specified in the Use of Reasonable Force policy. It is believed that having a consistent approach across settings has improved behaviour. It was asked if unions could inform him if they hear of any other schools not using Team Teach.
It was reported that some schools are using the same counselling service that they employ to council students instead of AMICA. It has been pointed out to them that this is inappropriate.
Water Hygiene and Asbestos Management reports remain good. One Premises Officer has resigned rather than face disciplinary because of a failure to monitor water temperatures and allow a scald risk to develop. In another school a contractor failed to follow the instruction that they were given and drilled into asbestos.