Health and Safety - News and Alerts
False Widow Spiders
Given the media attention in previous years any risk posed from false widow spiders has got blown out of all proportion.
It is normal to see more spiders at this time of year as they come indoors for warmth. False widow spiders are native to the UK, and are common in Southern England. They are most active at night; during the day they tend to remain within or near their webs.
Spider bites are rare in the UK, whilst a bite would be uncomfortable its no stronger than a wasp sting and its generally done in defence rather than being naturally aggressive.
There are no specific considerations / procedures for schools to follow and certainly no need to consider a school closure as a reuslt of identifiying a false widow as these are not a significant health risk.
As with all spider species any eradication treatment cannot ensure that the spiders will not return to the building.
In the event of any bite / sting to which severe reaction/ swelling etc occurs then its recommended medical attention is sought.
For further advice
Downloadable Halloween Posters
Hertfordshire Constabulary have produced two downloadable Halloween themed posters for kids and teenagers. The posters can be used in schools to raise awareness of staying safe during Halloween.
Availability of EpiPen® Adrenaline Auto-Injector in the UK
See the Allergy UK and Epipen websites for the latest updates on supply issues of EpiPen® Adrenaline Auto-Injector in the UK. For the remainder of 2018, EpiPen® and EpiPen® Junior will be subject to restricted availability.
Some specific batches of 0.3mg Epi-pen ‘senior’ have now been extended for 4 months past their expiry date. The affected lot numbers, which have labelled expiry dates between July 2018 and November 2018, are listed here:
Schools intending to hire / use inflatables should follow the existing advice and guidance available via the HSE:
and on the Grid guidance on inflatables
In all cases where suppliers / operators are used schools should ensure they have robust procedures for appointment in place and are undertaking due diligence in order to ensure safety standards are met.
Key considerations :
- Inflatables should meet the current British Standard (BS EN 14960) if it has, there will be a label on it saying so. The label will tell you when it was made, how many people can use it and what heights they should be. ( the company providing this should be able to give all this data)
- Ensure it has been inspected annually by a registered inspection body e.g. the Amusement Device Inspection Scheme (ADIPS) and Pertexa Inflatable Play Accreditation (PIPA). Both are independent voluntary schemes, funded and run by industry members.
- Suitable anchor points must be used, every inflatable should have at least 6 anchor points, though bigger ones will need more. Again the operator manual that should be supplied with the inflatable will tell you how many there should be and the company providing and setting this up are responsible for doing this.
- Any electrical blower with the inflatable should be PAT tested like any other portable appliance
- Risk assessment to be provided by suppliers / operators
It’s worth keeping this risk in context, remember that the majority of incidents on bouncy castles are simply from misuse/numbers and ages of children etc.. So there should be constant supervision ( by suitably competent people) when the inflatable is blown up and it is strongly recommended that hirers ask for this to be provided as a condition of hire. Numbers of supervisors will depend on the number of participants.
Safety Alert Inflatables
Safety Alert Defibrilators
Safety Alert Lifepak 1000 Defibrilators
Whirlpool Tumble Dryers
Whirlpool the maker of Hotpoint and Indesit tumble dryers has nadvice to the owners of Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble driers manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 telling customers to unplug the appliances and stop using them until they are repaired. This is due to an identified defect where excess fluff can come into contact with the heating element leading to a fire risk.
There’s a self service model checker on the Whirlpool website where you can determine if your dryer is affected https://safety.hotpoint.eu/gb/index.jsp or via a dedicated free phone helpline on 0800 151 0905
Does your school keep poultry?
Please read the following from the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs to make sure you are complying with the law on avian flu:
All poultry keepers are required to take steps to reduce the risk of infection via the environment, for example in wild bird droppings, by practicing good biosecurity. You should do this even if your birds are inside. You should read the detailed guidance on what you need to do.
If you have a backyard flock, you should read the short, simple advice on how to comply with these rules and how to protect birds’ welfare when they’re housed.
(Breach of controls is an offence, with a penalty of up to £5,000 on summary conviction and up to 3 months’ imprisonment)
If you require any advice please contact Hertfordshire Trading Standards on 01707 292429 and ask for the Animal Health duty officer
Swimming Pool Light Fittings
Safety Alert Swimming pool light fittings
Cheap Laser Cutters
Safety Alert Cheap Laser Cutters
Asbestos Management in Schools
The safe and effective management of asbestos in our schools is key to ensuring all staff and children have access to a safe and effective working and learning environment.
Following a recent incident in a Hertfordshire school where a contractor drilled into asbestos containing ceiling tiles in their school hall. Schools must ensure that all staff involved in managing and commissioning work on the fabric of the building are familiar with the school’s asbestos survey, management plan and crucially the limitations of these management surveys.
For any project involving substantial refurbishment/demolition or going into areas that are beyond the scope of your survey additional assurance / an intrusive survey (known as refurbishment and demolition survey) would be required.
Potentially this can impact even on minor projects such as the installation of a projector to the hall ceiling, new data cabling etc. As ceiling voids and areas over 3m in height are typically not covered in the management survey and thus must be presumed to contain asbestos until proven otherwise.
The presence of asbestos and the limitations of management surveys must be a fundamental part of every jobs planning process.
For example if accessing ceiling voids for cabling, repairing pipework etc. these areas are often not accessed during the management survey (only modern accessible suspended ceilings less than 3M high are likely to have had a visual inspection) and can often contain asbestos materials ( firebreaks, bulkheads, old secondary ceilings, pipework insulation etc.) thus it should be assumed such areas do contain asbestos until proven otherwise.
The area of work / cabling route etc would need to be surveyed prior to any work being able to be undertaken in the void. No permission to work could be given until it has been confirmed the works will not disturb ACM.
Every job that impacts on the ceiling void requires careful consideration of how the void can be accessed safely and efficiently.
It is important that you ensure all school staff, and contractors are aware of the location of asbestos in the building.
Should you require advice and guidance on asbestos management contact firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com
An overview of the Local Authority’s asbestos management processes are available on the Grid
DfE guidance on Managing asbestos (Revised March 2015)
Asbestos in First World War Army Helmets
Following the advice last year regarding 2nd World war gas masks, the HSE have also issued a warning that the majority of the British Army (‘Brodie’) helmets, issued during the First World War, contain Chrysotile (white) asbestos in the helmet liner. As a result the advice in relation to these items is the same as for gas masks - it is not appropriate for children or teachers to wear or handle any artefacts that potentially contain asbestos. Replica gas masks and ‘Brodie’ Helmets that do not contain asbestos are available as teaching aids. Please ensure that these important messages are shared within your school.
Second World War Gas Masks Use in Schools
Gas masks from the Second World War period potentially contain asbestos. The Health and Safety Executive advice is that it does not think it appropriate for children or teachers to wear or handle a gas mask unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the particular mask does not contain asbestos. Please seek health and safety advice should you have any concerns on this issue. We have produced some guidance as part of the Education H&S Manual which can be accessed at:
Emergency Asthma Inhalers for Use in Schools
From 1st October 2014 the Human Medicines (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014 allows schools to buy salbutamol inhalers, without a prescription, for use in emergencies. E.g. If the pupil’s prescribed inhaler is unavailable, broken, or empty. This is entirely discretionary- schools are not required to hold an emergency inhaler. If schools do choose to keep an emergency inhaler then a protocol for use based on this DoH guidance should be developed. The guidance also includes a consent form and letter to inform parents of its use.
Chemical Incident During Science Experiment
A Hertfordshire School had a chemical incident during a lesson based on salt formation (production of copper sulphate). The class undertook an experiment using sulphuric acid and copper oxide, this was an RSC practical and the scheme of work did reference a standard instruction not to overheat the crystals.
During the lesson staff noted fumes from one groups equipment, the gas was turned off and lab evacuated.
A member of staff subsequently re-entered the lab without knowing what the fumes were to in order to ventilate the room.
Staff then attempted to determine what the fumes were and telephoned CLEAPSS who confirmed it was SO3. (sulphur trioxide) Following a call to NHS direct an ambulance was recommended due to a member of staff and an asthmatic pupil suffering respiratory irritation.
HCC concerns raised with school were:
- Member of staff re-entering before nature of incident was established. Ensure emergency protocols for response are reviewed and staff are not potentially put at risk as a result.
- The nature of substance / hazard should have been known prior to incident. CLEAPSS documentation on the production of sulphates clearly references this as a potential risk and provides alternative methodologies. The scheme of work was not effectively linked to CLEAPSS model risk assessments and teaching staff were not proactively checking CLEAPSS hazcards / model RA’s.
City of Edinburgh Council has been fined after a 15 year old student was seriously injured when she fell 5 metres down a lift shaft as teachers attempted to free her from a broken down lift.
The HSE prosecution was brought against the council (as the employer) for serious safety failings. The school were attempting to affect a rescue of pupils stuck in the lift between the first and second floors. It was during this attempted rescue that the student fell into the lift shaft where she fell over five metres to the basement.
The power to the lift had not been isolated and the car could have resumed moving at any time during the rescue or as the schoolgirl lay injured in the basement waiting for help to arrive.
HSE found that the council failed to ensure that staff at the school had been given sufficient instructions, information and training to deal with such incidents, and that no suitable risk assessment had been undertaken
Fee for Intervention
The HSE website contains detailed guidance on their ‘Fee for Intervention’ cost recovery scheme.
Electrically Powered Gates
We've a number of these in school settings now and although the installer clearly has duties as with all things occupier of the premises needs to ensure risk is effectively managed.
The HSE view gates located in vicinity of general public as being high risk and their expectation for schools does seem to be that additional safeguarding techniques should be in place, in a recent visit to a school they recommended additional pressure sensitive strips be fitted on the closing edge in combination with force limitation. HSE have issued a safety notice for electrically powered gates, full details of which are available on the HSE website.
Where electrically powered gates are in place on school sites it should be ensured that any possible crushing / trapping areas are identified and that such risks have been eliminated / controlled through measures such as fixed guards, infra red sensors etc.
When installing / commissioning electrically powered gates ensure that these are properly CE marked and comply with BS EN 12453:2001 which require that any hazards caused by crushing are identified and such hazards are adequately controlled.
See Electrically powered gates in the H&S Manual
Being able to demonstrate that you’ve taken all reasonable steps to select competent contractors goes a long way to demonstrating your compliance as the client with H&S legislation.
It is strongly recommended that schools always use a property framework contractor as a method of procuring works. Details can be found atL
Guidance on the Management of Contractor Health and Safety is available in the Education H&S manual this is of particular importance when considering the appointment of contractors outside of Hertfordshire frameworks.
Cupboard Hinge Safety
A five year old pupil who attended a special school in Telford had their finger amputated in the hinge of a cupboard door.
The design of the hinge (furniture supplied by ESA McIntosh) would appear to be unsuitable for use in early years / special school settings, the photograph below shows a pencil in the square aperture of the hinge, on closing the door this aperture creates a guillotine effect which sheared through the pupils finger.
Sellotape on the outer face of the hinge provides a temporary solution but in the longer term replacement of such hinges would be required.
Electrical Safety and Inspection Frequency
Following an incident where a member of catering staff received an electric shock from a bain marie, the investigation highlighted a lack of a clear planned maintenance / servicing schedule for kitchen equipment within the school.
The school were conducting a policy of PAT testing equipment across the school once every two years. However given the potentially higher levels of wear and tear in a catering environment as opposed to more benign environments such as offices / classrooms, then a combined inspection / test on an annual basis would have been appropriate and would almost certainly have picked up the fault.
Work at Height
Suffolk County Council has appeared in court for failing to manage health and safety at three of its workplaces, including two schools.
An IT technician fell more than 20 feet while attempting to remove a screen at the back of a stage following a theatre production. The technician was standing inside a basket at the top of a temporary aluminium platform, called a tallescope, while it was being pushed by a colleague.
The platform had outriggers to stabilise it but these were not being used, as staff had not been trained in their operation.
The tallescope was not designed to carry a person while it is being moved, when staff attempted to move it, it became unstable and overturned, causing him to fall to the ground. He needed a steel plate and nine metal pins inserted into the shattered bone in his arm and was off work for five months owing to his injuries. Whilst we've not come across any tallescopes in Hertfordshire schools, similar stability and competence issues exist around mobile tower scaffolds generally.
DfE Advice on Health and Safety
The government guidelines covering general health & safety and offsite visits for schools.
Hertfordshire County Council fully supports a sensible and proportionate approach to Health & Safety within schools.
However it is important to note that these guidelines do not change any existing legislation and it is the employer under Health and Safety legislation who must take reasonable steps to ensure staff and pupils are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
Our focus remains on the management of significant risks within schools and on working together to ensure proportionate measures are in place. There is still a requirement for proven competent staff to deliver & lead visits as well as for significant risks to be identified and management strategies / control measures written down.
The following commonly asked questions arising from the DfE guidance provide some additional local guidance for schools.
Who is the employer in schools?
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 places overall responsibility for health and safety with the employer. Who this is varies with the type of school:
- For community schools, community special schools, voluntary-controlled schools, maintained nursery schools and Esc’s the employer is the LA.
- For foundation schools, voluntary-aided and academy schools, the employer is usually the governing body.
- For independent schools, the employer is usually the governing body or proprietor.
What risk assessments do HCC expect to be in place?
Under H&S legislation, risk assessment is required to be documented for significant risks. Nothing in the legislation has changed in that respect and the focus from HCC’s perspective is on how these significant risks are managed within schools.
Schools are low risk environments, albeit with some higher risk areas, and we would therefore expect that the risk assessments in place are proportionate, with more consideration being given to significant risks such as: -
Fire, work at height, caretaking duties, general premises, etc.
How should I manage risk assessment in the curriculum as the DfE say teachers should only carry out a written risk assessment in exceptional circumstances?
School arrangements for risk assessment should be proportionate to the risks involved. Teachers and visit leaders should be aware of relevant generic / model risk assessments which the school has in place and consider any specific health and safety issues such as size of class, SEN, pupil behaviour, age / maturity of pupils etc. as part of their planning and preparation, risk assessment is just another name for that planning process.
For most lower risk activities then rather than produce stand alone risk assessments on specific forms risk reduction in the curriculum is best achieved by incorporating your assessment into materials normally used in teaching and annotating texts used daily i.e. schemes of work, lesson plans, pupil worksheets etc.
For curricular activities in areas of higher risk (DT, Science, PE etc.) guidance and generic risk assessments are produced by advisory bodies such as CLEAPSS, DATA, AfPE etc.
Heads of department / subject leaders should review courses against these model risk assessments and consider if any adaptation is required for the schools local circumstances.
Where a lesson is not adequately covered by these model assessments, is beyond the normal scheme of work etc. a specific more detailed assessment would need to be conducted and this would be an exceptional circumstance.
Further guidance on risk assessment within the curriculum is available via
Why do HCC’s criteria for minibus drivers differ from that of DfE?
Previous statements from DfE and Dept for Transport (DfT) have not been accepted by Hertfordshire County Council on advice from the council's solicitors. There has not been a test case in court to settle the matter and HCC believes there is still a strong risk that an employee could be prosecuted for driving without the proper licence for the vehicle. This could also lead to the employer being prosecuted
The revised DfE advice is qualified with the statement ‘as long as their employer agrees’, currently there has been no change of HCC’s policy and thus where it is the employer it continues to insist that all minibus drivers hold category D1.
When do we need written parental consent for an offsite activity?
Written consent is not required for every individual trip and most schools will already have a system of asking for parental consent for local trips and visits as part of their admissions process.
As a child’s domestic situation can change dramatically between the times they enter and leave a school we recommend an annual consent for lower risk activities and curriculum related, non-residential visits be incorporated into the annual update for a pupil’s medical / emergency contact details routinely sent out.
For other higher risk activities and residential visits then event specific consent should still be sought.
Why do we need an EVC as the DfE state there is no requirement to have one?
There is no legal requirement to have an EVC in place within the school, however as the employer HCC has a duty to ensure adequate training is provided and introduce measures to effectively manage risk. We therefore do recommend that a trained EVC is in place who can support staff and maintain oversight of all trips with demonstrable competency to scrutinise the arrangements in place.
What Health & Safety training is required in schools?
As with risk assessment, Health & Safety training should be proportionate to the level of risk involved.
As an example, work at height training would be considered mandatory for those site staff - IT technicians, drama technicians etc - who frequently work at height / undertake tasks where there is more risk. For other staff the provision of basic information / instruction on the safe use of stepladders would be deemed satisfactory.
Top Tips for Ladder and
Stepladder Safety :
School Meal Provision for Pupils with Allergies
Following some serious incidents, arrangements have now been revised regarding school meal provision for pupils with allergies.
We are aware that schools work very hard to ensure that all pupils are safe; however the importance of schools following the procedures cannot be over-emphasised, as in the most serious scenario a pupil being served the incorrect food could result in a fatality.
A procedure, produced in partnership with Hertfordshire Catering, the Primary Care Trust and Healthy Schools, is available on The HGfL. The guidance and expectations follow the DfE ‘Managing Medicines in Schools and Early Years Settings’, which also contain model forms for managing health care needs.
The procedure should be followed if a defined food allergy is identified and the parent wishes the pupil to have school meals.
This is part of a wider school duty to support and safeguard all pupils with significant health care needs and schools should liaise with the parent/carer, child’s GP (or other health care professional) and the schools nurse to identify the level of support required and the need for a specific health care plan.
- It is vital that the pupils, parents, catering staff and the school work together to minimise any risk that could occur as a result of incorrect serving
- Catering staff need to know exactly what food is acceptable; parents must be involved in looking at the menu and agreeing what food the child can eat. This needs to happen every time the menu cycle changes
- Kitchen staff, including mobile staff, must be kept up to date on any changes to pupils needs. This includes keeping photos up to date so that kitchen staff can recognise pupils easily
- If there is a chance that medical procedures may be required, all school staff must receive regular training updates. This can be arranged via the school nurse.
- All staff must be aware of the pupils and their needs. Special consideration needs to be given to any food that is prepared in class time or during breakfast and after school clubs.
- All supply staff need to be briefed on allergies. Even if the pupil is not in their class they may still be the nearest member of staff available if the pupil requires immediate care.
The policy and form are available on the Education Health and Safety Manual page under 'F':
All Hertfordshire catering staff have been updated on the procedures. If you have any questions, please contact the Food Development Team at Hertfordshire Catering on 01707 292500.
Severe Weather & Lightweight Canopies
In severe weather lightweight canopies on school sites are have the potential to collapse under the weight of snow.
In particular this can affect unsupported cantilevered canopies i.e. one which is attached directly to the building without the addition of any other supports or posts.
Schools are advised to:
Check all canopies for signs of damage / collapse
Cordon off any unsupported canopies during very severe weather and do not use the area under such canopies until they have been independently assessed.
Ensure all canopies are inspected following adverse weather for signs of damage
Ensure all canopies have been appropriately designed to take the weight of large volumes of snow. Canopies for which the school made a submission through Local Authority building control should have allowed in the design calculations for snow loading. Where canopies have been installed without reference to building control then a retrospective application to them should be made. (Note for canopies with a surface area below a threshold of 30M2 then there could be no inspection / regulation by building control.)
If you have any immediate concerns regarding the structure, or feel that an assessment is needed, please contact the installer / designer of the canopy to confirm it can support the weight of snow or seek advice from a structural engineer.
(21 Dec 2010)
Following an incident where a metal ventilation grate fell from within a school gym it was subsequently found that only 1 of the original 6 screws affixing the vent was in place.
Please ensure that your site staff check any similar grates, in particular in those areas where fixings may have worn loose over time e.g. from vibration, contact etc. and tighten / replace fixings where necessary.
Teachers Driving Minibuses
Advice and guidance on teachers driving minibuses:
Olympic Starter Pistols - Illegal
The police have changed the rules on permitted hand-guns and this includes the Olympic starter pistol. Please follow the link below to UK Athletics and to BBC news which explains in more detail and why. Please note the deadline for this is 4th June 2010 and from this date it will be illegal to possess this pistol.
Laptop Computer Charging Trolleys Safety
Please see below an alert from the HSE regarding the electrical safety of laptop computer charging trolleys. Their investigation into an electric shock incident found that when the 3 pin plug supplying the trolley was removed from the supply there was sufficient stored electrical charge on the pins to give the user a shock.
For full details see:
Recommended Actions for Schools
Check your existing trolley(s) has a CE mark and declaration of conformity (the supplier or manufacturer can confirm this). Those laptop trolleys available from the Herts Supplies 2009/10 catalogue do meet these standards
If your trolley does not have a declaration of conformity and a CE mark assurance should be obtained from the manufacturer / supplier that the product is safe for its intended use.
Insert and remove plugs when the socket is switched off (this is simply to increase the time before handling the plug where any residual charge may be). Ensure staff are advised of this procedure.
As with all electrical equipment the condition of cables and plugs should be visually checked for any damage prior to use and the trolley subject to regular PAT testing.
Moving and handling:
Awareness and training pack