Health and Safety Matters: H&S Inspections, Updates, Training
H&S Inspections in Schools
Over the past 18 months I have begun a series of H&S inspections in Leicester Schools. The aim is to support the work that is already going on and to provide time and expertise for schools in which union reps and H&S reps are unable to carry out inspections themselves. Although the Education & Children's Services H&S team carry out their own programme of annual audits, they fully support and welcome the NUT inspections.
All union H&S officers are entitled to carry out inspections of their places of work on a regular basis. Regulations actually permit union inspections every three months, although the NUT recommends a maximum of one a term. In practice, one union inspection a year would be good. At current rate of progress it will take me over ten years to visit each school once!
Schools should also have a H&S committee that has at least 50% of its members from the ordinary staff. Every union with members in the school has the right to have a representative on the committee.
Statistics show greatly improved standards of H&S when unions are involved, with fewer accidents and less absence due to ill health. It has been argued that schools are "low risk" places of employment. This may be so in terms of fatalities and other serious accidents, but H&S also involves preventing back strain, hearing and voice damage, stress and many other problems that afflict teachers on a daily basis. As we are being asked to work longer until retirement, it will be increasingly important for us to look after our health. Sensible employers will recognise this and encourage any measures that will benefit their staff.
The School Premises Regulations 2012 will come into effect on 31st October. The new regulations include some improvements to conditions but in the main the provisions are vague and water down the previous standards. The implications of this are detrimental not only to H&S, but also to the ability of students to learn.
It is not necessary to carry out P.A.T. tests (Portable Electrical Appliance Tests) annually. Some appliances at low risk (e.g. IT equipment) may only need to be tested every five years while equipment that is used by students will need to be checked far more frequently.
The Fire Brigade will not automatically attend to a school when the alarm is triggered, although they may send a tender as a non-emergency. If it's a real fire dial 999!
All accidents must be reported on the official SO2 forms. This includes incidents of verbal or physical assaults and work related illnesses (including stress) that cause a member of staff to be absent from work. Some schools have apparently not had a single accident for over two years, which seems unlikely to be the case.
Training for H&S Reps
The nationally organised training course for NUT H&S reps will take place between Monday 4th–Friday 8th February 2013 and again between Monday 1st–Friday 5th July 2013. This five day residential course is highly recommended and is free to school H&S reps, who are entitled to attend providing they have not been on a similar course within the last 5 years. For more information and an application form please see the NUT website or contact the local office.
Many reps would like information and training about H&S matters but are unable or unwilling to be away from home for five days. Leicester NUT is in the process of organising local training. If you are interested in attending or would like to suggest specific topics to be covered please contact andyleicesternut.org.uk.