There are many health and safety considerations that all schools in the UK have a duty to partake in, to safeguard students, visitors and employees. In all cases, risk assessments should be routinely carried out and documented to prevent any unnecessary harm coming to school users. Discussed below are 5 considerations to inform schools of potential dangers and hazards they should be aware of, to implement complete safety across the school environment and prevent any harm occurring.
It is important for schools to recognise the importance of stair safety and avoid any potential hazards leading to dangerous accidents involving pupils or staff. Generally, the most common risk hazards to monitor are slips and falls, sharp edges and the assurance of up to date maintenance work being carried out.
A necessity when designing stairs for a school setting, is to ensure they include handrails for assistance and guidance, which should be supported by balusters. Handrails should be continuous, available on both sides of the staircase and along any landings. If schools cater for pupils under the age of 12, it may be preferred to include an additional handrail at around 60cm.
Although colour choice for staircases may not seem significant, to avoid accidents it is recommended that they contrast with their background to ensure they are easily visible to users. Using the correct flooring materials for staircases is also a large factor in preventing any incidents. At National Testing we are highly experienced in the testing of stair slip resistance in order to ensure your existing stairs are up to industry standard, we can even help you choose the right flooring for any school refurbishment work.
When deciding on flooring materials in general, school settings should consider acoustic performance, thermal needs, supported furniture, appropriate durability and the assurance of withstanding high foot traffic. The type of flooring may vary between different areas depending on the functionality and needs of the space.
Schools should acknowledge that the chosen flooring material has appropriate durability to withstand expected high foot traffic and good slip resistance. Generally, there are a lot of flooring materials available that have the ability to withstand heavy foot fall over long periods of time, however there are minor disadvantages to keep in mind about various materials. For example, carpet is more susceptible to wear and tear and will need more regular inspections, whereas harder surfaces such as laminate can be easily scuffed. Heavy duty vinyl can offer the best of both worlds, as long as you choose one with a high slip resistance and durability factor.
Areas where spillages are more likely to occur, such as science laboratories may benefit from specialised flooring surfaces rather than that of an ordinary classroom. To minimise risk and injury from slips, schools should consider assessing the slip resistance of flooring on a regular basis using a pendulum test provided by external companies. The HSE holds a requirement to determine the acceptability of slip resistant flooring, outlining it should have a minimum surface roughness of 20 microns.
Monitoring Electrical Equipment
It is a legal requirement of schools to effectively manage the use, inspection, maintenance and repair of all electrical equipment provided on site. Not doing so can lead to unnecessary danger to students, to which the school will be held legally accountable for if this leads to any injury.
The fundamental actions a school can take in ensuring safety with electrical equipment is to complete regular ‘Portable Appliance Testing’ (PAT). Equipment should be PAT tested at least every 12 months. However, in an environment where electrical appliances are used on a regular basis, and are therefore at an increased risk of damage, it is good practice for schools to complete PAT testing at more regular intervals to minimise the risk of a child being exposed to a faulty appliance.
Areas Containing Asbestos
Asbestos will be more apparent in school buildings built before 2000. It will generally be found in materials used for fireproofing and insulation. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 outlines the duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises including schools. A ‘dutyholder’, also known as the school itself, is responsible for the management of asbestos, but this can be delegated to an employee such as a caretaker.
Schools must ensure a management plan is in place for asbestos infected areas. They should be able to provide clear information including; whether the premises does contain any asbestos, a record of where it will be found, what condition it is in, and a system to be followed if the asbestos is disturbed. A visual inspection must be carried out yearly as a minimum.
Asbestos leaks are most likely to occur after the surrounding materials have been disturbed or damaged, usually during maintenance work. Therefore, any professional carrying out any construction work, whether issued internally or by external contractors, should be informed about the location and condition of any known asbestos beforehand, and should be fully trained and licensed in working alongside asbestos.
Schools should always ensure the safeguarding of students and employees in regards to fire safety. There should be well detailed procedures in place to combat the likelihood of a fire and detail any potential fire hazards.
It is good practise for fire alarms to be tested on a weekly basis to ensure they remain in good working condition. Similarly, fire evacuation tests should be carried out, at least once every 6 months, to ensure all users are aware of the evacuation plan and to ensure clearing of all areas run smoothly.
It’s advised for a school to have at least two fire exit routes which should always be kept clear of obstruction for ease of evacuation, particularly due to the high volumes of footfall through these exits in the event of a fire. Fire routes and exits should be clearly marked, including worded signs and picture symbols, especially in schools with young children so all students can easily understand the information. There must be clearly marked extinguishers situated at easy to reach locations throughout the school. Adding specialised fire safety doors and flooring can reduce and delay the spread of a fire, which can give time to ensure a safe escape.
Fire risk assessments should be routinely carried out and documented with any hazards immediately rectified. The fire safety representative should always ensure all regulations are consistently followed.
If your school is in the process of updating health and safety procedures and is in need of a floor safety inspection our team can help. We can determine whether the flooring materials are both fit for purpose as well as investigating whether they are offering good slip resistance and fall prevention. Our team is highly skilled in testing ramps, stairs and general walkways in order to establish whether they comply with HSE recommendations and can provide you with full safety reports for your records. For more information on our floor safety and pendulum slip tests, simply call our team today or request a free quote via our website.