Health & Safety Matters - Pupils with medical conditions, asbestos management, gas masks and military helmets, European H&S Week
Pupils With Medical Conditions
The DfE have recently issued a Statutory Guidance document entitled Supporting Pupils with Medical Conditions in Schools. This is actually for school governors but it contains useful information for anyone working in schools. If you happen to read it, it's worth remembering that only the parts in bold type are statutory. The document takes effect in September.
Although teachers are not directly responsible for the health care of students, there are some things that it is important to be aware of concerning the medical conditions of students you teach. It is, however, the school's responsibility to tell you, not yours to go and find out. Some schools issue information to staff when a student first arrives at a school, but fail to renew the information when they pass on to a new teacher, which is clearly unacceptable. The information should include the name of the condition, the symptoms that might occur in class or affect the student's ability to work (including homework), any extra requirements the student might need (taking medication, going to the toilet more often etc.) and what to do in the event of an emergency if that is possible. Obviously this information must remain confidential.
One of the aims of the guidance is to ensure that students with medical conditions are able to have the same educational opportunities as all other students, so it is not acceptable to exclude students from activities because of their condition. This might mean that the student needs to be provided with additional support to allow them to take part. If the school is unwilling or unable to provide the support that a teacher thinks is necessary to allow the student to take part in the activity safely, or considers that the unsupported presence of the student might be a risk to the welfare of other students, the teacher needs to plan an alternative activity.
In particular, schools and teachers must not:
• Prevent students from easily accessing inhalers and other medicines when necessary.
• If the student becomes unwell send them to the medical room unaccompanied or accompanied by someone unsuitable.
• Prevent students from drinking, eating or going to the toilet when they need to in order to manage their condition.
• Require, or put pressure on, parents to attend school to administer medicines or provide medical support for their child.
In addition, students under16 must not be given prescription or non-prescription medicines without their parents' written consent (unless the medicine has been prescribed without the knowledge of the parents). Medicines containing aspirin must not be given to a child unless prescribed by a doctor.
Weaknesses in Asbestos Management
A recent national survey of asbestos management in non-local authority schools carried out by the HSE found problems with 29% of those inspected and 13% were issued with improvement notices which is the HSE equivalent of Serious Weaknesses. While it is yet another example of the problems caused by schools being out of local authority control, those of us still working in an LA shouldn't be too complacent. Even though Leicester LA in theory has a thorough system of asbestos monitoring, it does rely on the vagaries of what happens in individual schools and there can be greatly different levels of competency and perhaps even honesty. It remains essential for all school employees to be vigilant about the condition of asbestos and to ask questions of management if they are not confident that things are being done properly.
Gas Masks and Military Helmets
Still on the subject of asbestos, it has recently come to light that WW2 gas masks and WW1 military helmets are likely to contain asbestos which may be in poor condition because of its age. The information issued via the HSE and DfE is: no gas masks or helmets should be worn or handled by children or teachers.
The Imperial War Museum advise that their policy is to assume any mask, whatever the vintage, contains asbestos as well as potentially other toxic or otherwise hazardous materials, and so should not be worn and only handled if clearly certified as safe to do so.
In general, it's worth remembering that old items were probably not manufactured to the same standards that we expect these days and care should be taken, particularly when students bring things in from home.
European Health and Safety Week
This year's theme is 'Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress' and it will run from Monday 23 rd October. Further information can be found at healthy-workplaces.euy and a copy of the campaign guide can be downloaded.