Health & Safety Matters - heating systems, winter, TU Reform Bill, asbestos in crayons
An Unpleasant Atmosphere?
Many of the newer school buildings and in particular the BSF schools have their heating and ventilation controlled by a Building Maintenance System (BMS). This is a computerised system that monitors the conditions and adjusts the heating and mechanical air flow to keep the temperature and carbon dioxide levels within acceptable limits. Some systems also open and close windows automatically. It's becoming fairly clear that the BMS is not functioning properly in a number of schools. Some buildings have been designed on the assumption that the BMS works and have no alternative system. Conditions have become intolerable in at least one school.
We know about some buildings where this is a problem but it would be very helpful if you could report problems that you are having in your school to us.
Winter is Coming!
As we head into the darker colder months, schools should be preparing for the potential bad conditions. If your school had problems last year it would be wise to ask your managers a few questions in advance:
• Has the outside lighting been checked?
• Are the heaters working properly?
• Is there an adequate supply of salt and grit?
• Is the system of alerting staff and parents in the event of school closures known to all and working properly?
The last point is particularly important for new members of staff.
Trade Union Reform Bill
I'm sure that everyone is aware that the appalling Trade Union Reform Bill is an attempt by the government to curtail the activities of Trade Unions and attack our civil liberties. You probably aren't aware that it is also a threat to Health & Safety. It's an accepted fact that places of employment where Unions have active H&S representatives are safer places to work. This act makes it harder for reps to do their jobs and therefore makes work more dangerous.
Clause 12, 7(c) of the act states that any public sector employer, who has at least one union safety representative, will have to record and publish details of all time taken off and any facilities provided for their union duties; clause 13,4 (c) will give ministers reserve powers, allowing them to restrict the rights to time off for safety representatives by amending the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act.
Asbestos in Crayons
It has been reported that crayons imported from China have been found to be contaminated with asbestos. The NUT is warning teachers to check the source of crayons that they use in class.
Asbestos is still widely used in China, but I suppose the asbestos contamination when a nuclear power station melts down will be of minor concern!
H&S Reps Training
The Midlands regional training course, due to be held this week, has been postponed because very few reps had signed up. It's really important for school H&S reps to be trained to carry out their role as effectively as possible. I appreciate that it is hard to find time to get out of school but I hope that as many reps as possible will attend the course or alternatively go to the five day course at Stoke Rochford in July.
If your school does not have an NUT H&S Representative, why not think about taking on the job? It's an excellent way of becoming more active in the union.
Another attempt to run the course will be made on 1 st & 2nd March and 19th & 20th May.
NUT H&S Briefings
A series of NUT briefings have been updated this term. Topics covered include asbestos, continence, dust, dysentery, fire safety, first aid, infectious diseases, women's H&S and working with computers. All and many more are available on teachers.org.uk