Under Section 2(7) of the Health & Safety at Work Act (1974), an employer is duty bound to establish a Health & Safety committee when at least two Health & Safety Representatives request in writing that such a committee should be formed.
On receiving a written request an employer must: -
- acknowledge the request
- consult with other recognised Trades Unions in the workplace where the committee will function
- post a notice in a place where it can easily be read stating the composition of the committee and the workplace(s) to be covered by it. For school situations teaching, janitorial, cleaning and kitchen staff should be involved
- establish the committee not later than three months later than receipt of the written request.
PURPOSE OF A SAFETY COMMITTEE
The Safety Committee should be concerned with all matters pertaining to the Health, Safety, and Welfare of all employees. The Safety Committee within a school needs to be equipped to deal with the varied work situations which exist in an educational environment.
MEMBERSHIP OF A SAFETY COMMITTEE
- This should be determined by negotiation between management and Trades Union representatives.
- The number of management representatives should not exceed the number of employee representatives.
- The total size of the committee should be as compact as possible while compatible with adequate representation of all interested parties.
- Management representatives should not only include line management but also management representatives who have;
- adequate authority to consider views and recommendations.
- the necessary knowledge and expertise to advise the committee on employer policy.
For further advice and information consult the following Health and Safety Executive
(HSE) publication:- Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (as amended) and Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (as amended). Approved Codes of Practice and guidance”
OBJECTIVES AND FUNCTIONS OF A SAFETY COMMITTEE
- to review measures taken to ensure the health and safety at work of all employees
- to promote co-operation between employer and employee by instigating, developing and implementing measures to ensure health and safety at work
- to examine the causes of any accidents and to compile reports for management highlighting unsafe working practices
- to consider reports by H&S inspectors or H&S representatives and make any necessary recommendations
- to assist with the development of work safety rules and safe systems of work.
- to monitor the effectiveness of the Health & Safety content of employee training
- to provide a link with the appropriate enforcing authority
- to carry out, in certain instances, an inspection of the workplace
- to consider and implement Local Authority policies
A Safety Policy is a legal document which the employer is required to prepare if there are more than five employees. Its purpose is to ensure that management has procedures in place to guarantee the Health, Safety and Welfare of their employees.
It has three parts:
1. General Statement of Intent
- give a clear statement of the intention to provide a safe and healthy environment for employees and to protect those affected by the activities of people at work
- make a commitment to:
- train staff
- disseminate information to staff
- consult with staff regarding Health and Safety matters
- make clear the necessity for all employees to be involved in Health and Safety
2. Statement of Organisation
This must show
- who is responsible for turning the general statement of intent into practical reality
- who is responsible for what at each level
- who is ultimately responsible, who gives safety advice and who carries out training
3. Statement of Arrangements
- include the procedures and structures necessary to achieve the aims of the General Statement e.g. systems of work, environmental matters, noise, dust, training, consultation, emergency procedures, inspections etc
- include arrangements for reporting and investigating accidents and First Aid provision
- list the principal hazards likely to be encountered in the work
- include a statement of arrangements for protecting against these hazards
- refer to other documents e.g. very specific systems of work which are made available in other booklets or documents
SAFETY POLICY CHECKLIST
- clearly state employees’ responsibilities?
- Emphasise co-operation?
- set out process of consultation?
- deal with Section 3 responsibilities?
- identify hazards?
- deal with remedying safety defects?
- set out provision of personal protection?
- contain emergency procedures?
- give accident reporting procedures?
- say how safety information is disseminated?
- deal with safety training?
- say how the safety organization and arrangements will be monitored?
- Is it signed and dated by the responsible person?
RIGHTS OF A HEALTH AND SAFETY REPRESENTATIVE
You will find a complete list of your rights in the HSE Booklet “Safety representatives and
You have a legally supported right to:
- be consulted by the employer (effectively the headteacher) on any matter affecting health and safety in the school
- investigate any potential hazard, dangerous occurrence or cause of accident in the school, i.e. not only those referred to you by your members. This may involve a formal risk assessment
- investigate any complaint regarding their health and safety brought to you by one of your members
- make representation to your employer on behalf of members. This places no duty of opinion on you; if you think there is a problem your employer must investigate and report back to you. Obviously common-sense must be used
- carry out safety inspections
- receive Health and Safety information
- have a Health and Safety Committee set up if one does not already exist
- attend Health and Safety Committee meetings
- receive paid time off to carry out your duties and for training
FUNCTIONS OF A HEALTH AND SAFETY REPRESENTATIVE
What you are not expected to do:
- you are not expected to be the only SSTA member responsible for Health and Safety or to have any special expertise on matters which you raise and, indeed, should not offer an expert opinion unless qualified to do so
- you will not be expected to deal with issues unaided, especially claims for loss or injury by members. Members should contact Headquarters directly.
- you cannot be held responsible for any representation you may make under the terms of your remit
- you are not the “Maintenance Manager” for the school.
What you are expected to do:
- take issues raised by members to the school Safety Officer (either the Headteacher or his/her appointee), check for action and report back to members
- if the matter is serious, urgent or has not been dealt with, put the complaint in writing using the appropriate Local Authority procedures
- be a member of the School Health and Safety Committee - if there is no such committee you can request one be set up and if two Safety Representatives so request, a Committee must be set up.
As Health and Safety representative you have the right to do the following:
- hold regular inspections of the school premises
- these should be at least annual but may be more frequent (very regular inspections would be essential during building work e.g. PPP)
- you should inform your school Health and Safety Officer of your intention to conduct an inspection giving at least a week’s notice - this can be done in collaboration with representatives from other unions. This is something for the School Health and Safety Committee to organise. It is also a good idea to inform staff when this is taking place as they often bring issues to your attention
- report your findings to your school H&S officer. (You may wish to use the form included with this material) giving three categories of attention:
a) high risk- requiring immediate attention
b) medium risk- requiring attention
c) low risk - needs to be done but can wait
- Keep a copy of your report for an update on progress or for future reference
- You may wish to send a copy to the district H&S rep/district H&S section/Education Dept H&S committee
Essential observations during an inspection:
- Fire - exit routes (clear and properly signposted), extinguishers and other fire prevention equipment, bells audible in all areas, evacuation instructions available all over building
- Electrical equipment/machinery - annual safety check/serviced?
- Heating/ventilation - are these adequate to keep the room warm in winter and to allow enough ventilation in summer to avoid excesses of temperature?
- Windows - safety catches, blinds or curtains to provide screening from sunlight
- General - trip hazards, safe storage, adequate cleaning, fabric of the building
- Special - Science/CDT/HE/Art/PE are areas of higher risk. Are all the necessary regulations being observed? (PTs should be able to help you with this.)
See Appendix 1: School Safety inspection Checklist
Please see this document for advice on the evacuation of disabled persons from buildings –
VIOLENCE AND AGGRESSION AT WORK
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related violence as
“any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work.”
Violence can range from a life-threatening physical attack to verbal abuse. It also includes psychological and sexual abuse. It also refers to threats of and attempted assault of any kind, and involves abuse and threats made via the telephone or via social media.
Verbal abuse and threats are the most common type of incident.
Your Local Authority may have its own preferred definition – this will be found in staff handbooks and agreed HR policies and procedures
USE OF VIOLENCE AND AGGRESSION FORMS
At present, each Local Authority has its own Violent Incident Recording form. These may place an emphasis on different aspects or may even record different information regarding incidents.
Forms should be easily available and used appropriately and consistently. The increasing use of online forms is to be encouraged. Ensure you retain a copy of the report after submission.
In this context there are certain important steps to take for members subject to violence:
AT TIME OF INCIDENT
- Seek at first instance assistance from colleagues and the senior management
- Medical assistance should be sought, if necessary
- Contact Police Scotland if the incident is serious
- With police involvement, the senior management should be supportive to the victim and should also facilitate police investigative procedures
REPORTING OF INCIDENT
- The school’s ‘pupil referral form’ should have a prompt to trigger the submission of a V&A reporting form.
- Each Local Authority should have a policy on the use of the V&A reporting form.
- Senior Managers should encourage that the V&A reporting form is completed when appropriate.
- Senior managers should follow up V&A reporting forms with appropriate feedback.
- If Police Scotland were contacted, the victim may be eligible for compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). Claims may be rejected if an incident is not reported to the police. Guidance to make a CICA claim can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/criminal-injuries-compensation-a-guide
- Members should be encouraged to seek the advice of their Union Representative and inform them of the outcome of V&A incidents.
- SSTA HQ deals directly with serious incidents
ABSENCE FROM WORK
- A facility and provision for ‘time out’ should be available immediately following an incident.
- Any absence, because of a violent incident, should be treated as special leave with full pay. (SNCT Handbook, paragraphs 6.22 and 6.23) https://www.snct.org.uk/wiki/index.php?title=Part_2_Section_6
- If a teacher is absent from work for more than 3 days due to an injury or ill health due to violence, Employers are required to report a HSE RIDDOR Notification. Information on RIDDOR for schools can be found at https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/edis1.pdf
- Work Related Stress (WRS) is currently a reportable incident, if it leads to absence of more than 3 days.
RETURN TO WORK
- The victim of a violent incident should be advised on phased return to work mechanisms such as reduced working hours or changing the work timetable. This is more appropriate if the absence has been more lengthy.
- The victim should be supported with counselling services. This should be arranged as soon as possible. Counselling maybe from the employer internal agency or from external agencies.
- Members who have concerns for the safety of themselves or their students, because of a violent incident, should ask for a Pupil Centred Risk Assessment to be undertaken.
PUPILS AS ASSAILANTS
- The assailant should be excluded if they have committed an act of violence against a member of staff. The period of exclusion should be in line with each Local Authority’s guidelines.
- During the period of exclusion, the views of the victim should be considered, and a Pupil Centred Risk Assessment should also be carried out regarding the assailant’s return.
- If an assailant is being returned to the establishment against the wishes of the victim or by SSTA members, advice should be sought from the Local Authority District Secretary. The Local Authority District Secretary will notify SSTA HQ.
- The SSTA will support a member refusing to teach the assailant until a Pupil Centred Risk Assessment has been generated and deemed fit for purpose.
- SSTA HQ will then raise the matter with the employer.
- The member, or members, in an establishment, who have indicated refusal to teach a pupil who has been violent may be advised to raise a grievance.
- If matters cannot be resolved, SSTA HQ are to advise the member(s) who refuse to admit the pupil. In such circumstances, there may be issues regarding breach of employment contract and the welfare of employees. SSTA HQ will inform members of the risks and the level of support from the SSTA.
RISK ASSESSMENTS OF PUPILS AS ASSAILANTS
The Pupil Centred Risk Assessment procedure involves:
- the risk of violence and assault on employees and other pupils is established
- the risk of stress and/or secondary trauma which arises from working in fear of violence and assault is considered
- steps to remove these risks are taken
- where removal of the risk is not possible, the risk by any necessary changes in working practices or by introducing appropriate protective and supportive measures are taken.