A School Trip You Don’t Want to Go On

A robust health and safety policy is paramount to any organisation, but those working in the education sector will understand the magnitude of responsibility they have to ensure a safe learning and working environment for not only their students and staff but for the many contractors and visitors who may be on the premises at different times of the day.

Educational establishments are fairly unique as many will contain a variety of different buildings over one, or sometimes multiple sites, and there will most probably be grounds for sports.  These premises will also be host to a multitude of events over the academic year with varying numbers of extra visitors to the site.  Add into the equation children of any age and it’s enough to test the hardiest of Health & Safety Managers, however this responsibility usually falls to one or more individuals as just a small part of their normal job role.

According to the Health & Safety Executive, you can attribute 55% of health and safety-related accidents to trips and falls, and that percentage is just for the education sector.  90% of those accidents result in a broken bone, and some of them will be life changing for the injured party.

Slips and trips unfortunately are inevitable.  People fall; it’s human nature.  I’m clumsy, I know firsthand. However, that isn’t an acceptable excuse and if the right precautions and measures are implemented, some of those accidents can be prevented.

When conducting your regular risk assessments pay particular attention to slip and trip hazards on your premises, both within the school buildings and the grounds.  The HSE states the most common areas for these accidents to occur are corridors and outdoor areas, followed by stairs, but this will be different for each establishment.  Historical incident records will give you an indication of areas where changes may need to be made.

Next, identify who may be most at risk to slips and trips, taking into account staff, pupils and also external visitors to the site.  Identify what precautions are currently in place and decide if they are adequate or if additional measures need to be implemented. As with all risk assessments it’s important to document your findings as well as any action taken. You may find you need to change the matting in your entrances to minimise the amount of water being brought inside, or a change to specially designed slip resistant surfaces in high-risk corridor areas may be needed.  This can help to provide a permanent reduction in the amount of slip and trip accidents in that area.

The approach to slips and trip hazards needs to stretch further than just your risk assessment though, as there are so many people that are exposed to the risk and, as such, they should be involved.  Create a policy for your organisation that is dedicated to slips and trips.  Start the document with an outline of your organisation’s responsibilities, and then follow it by defining the responsibilities of key groups, such as pupils, caterers, cleaners, teachers and lecturers, maintenance staff and the board of governors.  Each group’s responsibilities will relate to their specific area of work and will include points such as reporting spills as a matter of urgency, wearing ‘sensible’ footwear, using the correct cleaning solutions for the type of flooring or simply maintaining a clear desk policy.

The way you communicate your policy is key for maximum engagement and you should ensure all stakeholders are trained appropriately.

Finally, by keeping an annual tab on slip and trip accidents you can directly attribute a decrease in them to the measures you have put in place and quickly identify any areas of concern in the future.

The HSE website contains a fantastic area of their website dedicated to slips and trips (here), and have also produced the leaflet Watch your step in Education, which has several detailed case studies and also practical advice of how to implement changes.

Safesmart can help avoid slips, trips and falls with our health and safety consultancy.

Our Smartlog software can also be used to do risk assessment for actual out of school trips.

RIDDOR – Reporting of Accidents and Incidents

Accidents within the workplace happen each and every day. This is to be expected, especially when we think of working environments with machinery or hazardous chemicals. However, the truth of the matter is that accidents can happen in any workplace, from building sites to offices and schools. Although this may be the case, many people fail to report these incidents to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive). A reason behind this could be the complexity of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) which were put in place in 1995. According to RIDDOR, not all accidents need to be reported and this could be a source of confusion as to what constitutes as a reportable incident.

Who is affected?

You could be forgiven for thinking that RIDDOR only affects employees but this isn’t the case. Anyone within the workplace who is injured as a direct result of that environment is reportable. This includes employees, self-employed individuals and members of the public, e.g. customers, service users etc.

Recording

Although it is not necessary to report every incident or injury, it is recommended that all are recorded. This is an incredibly useful practice and can make it much easier to establish a timeline of events.

What should be reported?

Differentiating between what should and shouldn’t be reported can be tricky but it is necessary for compliance with RIDDOR.

Deaths of workers and non-workers which were directly caused by a work-related accidents should be reported. It should be noted that this doesn’t include suicide.

In terms of injuries, there is a complete list of ‘specified injuries’, all of which are reportable. These include fractures (other than digits), serious burns, loss of consciousness, amputations, scalping which requires hospital treatment, injuries which are likely to cause permanent loss of sight, injuries which cause damage to organs and incidents which lead to hypothermia or heat related illnesses.

Absence

Specific accidents should be reported if they lead to the incapacitation of a worker or self-employed individual for a number of consecutive days. For example, if an employee is unable to attend work for seven consecutive days due to an injury gained within the workplace, this should be reported. It should be noted that the day of the incident doesn’t count but weekends and rest days do.

If an employee is absent from work for three consecutive days, due to an injury gained within the workplace, this doesn’t have to be reported but it does have to be recorded. In accordance with the 1979 Social Security Regulations, an accident book should be kept for this reason.

Disease

Occupational diseases are those which are likely to have been caused by exposure to the workplace environment or activities completed within the workplace. Workers and self-employed individuals should report such diseases if they have been directly caused by their workplace. Ailments within this category include, asthma, hand arm vibration syndrome, carpel tunnel syndrome, dermatitis, cramp, tendonitis and cancer.

Dangerous Occurrences & Gas Incidents

Specific dangerous occurrences should be reported to the HSE, even if these incidents don’t lead to injury. Just some examples of the type of incidents in question include, the release of dangerous substances, the collapse of load bearing parts and equipment hitting power lines, as well as others.

Those that work with flammable gas, whether suppliers, distributers or fitters, are required to report any accidents involving gas. These can include death, a loss of consciousness and injuries which required treatment within a hospital.

Non-Workers

Members of the public within the workplace can include customers, service users, students or even just passers-by. Accidents involving non-workers should be reported if it leads to them being taken straight to the hospital for treatment

Further information on RIDDOR can be found online.

Safesmart’s online Smartlog Software includes a log book for accident reporting (RIDDOR).

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