These 2 disturbing articles – that happened in the same month I write this blog – are only 2 examples of the increasing risks that our educational institutes and establishments are facing.
Parents, caretakers and stakeholders are also becoming increasingly aware of these risks and are taking steps to ensure the education provider of their choice is following the health and safety principles, responsibilities and practises that they are mandated to follow.
The need for active risk management and compliance is becoming a necessity for every educational institute and establishment!
Here is a basic outline on the HSSE (Health & Safety Considerations in Educational Establishments) guidelines that should be followed.
The key elements of any good HSSE are as follows:
Policy and commitment
The employer, who is in a private educational institute is the owner of the institute or, in a public educational institute, is the government, is responsible for the development, implementation and application of the HSSE policy.
Every educational institute should have a health & safety policy, that is a written document containing a declaration of the commitment of the facility to ensuring safety, health and welfare in the educational institute. An effective safety, health and welfare policy sets a clear direction for the educational Institute to follow.
The safety, health and welfare policy is the first section of the safety statement. It should outline a commitment on behalf of the institute to ensure that it is as safe and healthy as is reasonably practicable and that all relevant statutory requirements will be complied with. It should spell out the policy in relation to the overall safety and health performance, provide a framework for managing safety, health and welfare, and list relevant educational Institute policies.
It may include commitments from the Employer to:
- manage and conduct educational institute activities so as to ensure the safety, health and welfare of staff;
- prevent improper conduct or behaviour likely to put staff and others’ safety, health and welfare at risk;
- provide safe means of access and egress;
- provide safe equipment;
- provide safe systems of work;
- prevent risk to safety, health and welfare from any article or substance;
- provide appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision;
- provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing where hazards cannot be eliminated;
- prepare, review and revise emergency plans;
- designate staff for emergency duties;
- provide and maintain welfare facilities;
- appoint a competent person to advise and assist in securing the safety, health and welfare of staff.
Planning is an important part of the educational institute’s safety, health and welfare management system. This system requires educational institutes to act in a variety of ways in a complex and challenging environment. The actions required may:
- be routine and predictable, (e.g. annual risk assessments, planned walk-through inspections, training events, meetings);
- occur in response to particular significant events or risk assessments. Many of these can be agreed and implemented fairly quickly, (e.g. repairs to equipment, new safety regulations, a change in work practice following the outcome of an accident);
- be planned to be implemented over a longer period of time or in phases, and may have major resource implications (e.g. replacing sub-standard infrastructure, introducing new equipment, refurbishing key locations).
The varied needs set out in the safety statement may relate to established features of the educational institute’s existing safety, health and welfare management system or they may be part of a developmental programme that may cover a significant period of time into the future.
The educational institute must plan, therefore, for short, medium and long term objectives in its efforts to maintain and improve safety, health and welfare across the whole educational institute. It must identify how these objectives will be achieved, the resources required and what roles people will have to play. It must take into account both of the physical infrastructure of the educational institute and of how people operate and interact within it. This varied activity must be planned in a coherent way if it is to be manageable and effective.
Safety, health and welfare planning is best seen as an integral part of the Educational institute Plan. It draws on many of the same resources and structures as other aspects of the educational institute self-evaluation and planning process. The safety statement should be informed by and reflect wider educational institute planning priorities and decisions.
For effective implementation of HSSE, the educational institute must deploy the safety, health and welfare structures established above.
Using the information resulting from the initial review of the educational institute’s current documentation and systems, the development/amendment of the safety statement can begin. Every employer is required to prepare, or cause to be prepared, a written statement based on the identification of the hazards and the risk assessment, specifying the manner in which the safety, health and welfare at work of their employees shall be secured and managed.
The safety statement represents a commitment to the safety, health and welfare of all people using the educational institute. It should state how the Employee will ensure their safety, health and welfare and state the resources necessary to maintain and review safety, health and welfare compliance with standards. The safety statement should influence all educational institute activities, including:
- the selection of competent people, equipment and materials;
- the way work is done;
- how goods and services are designed and provided.
The safety, health and welfare statement must be made available to learners, pupils, staff and other relevant persons, showing that hazards have been identified and the risks assessed and eliminated or controlled. The safety statement should include each of the following:
- Safety, health and welfare policy (as discussed in Step 1)
- Educational institute profile
- Resources for safety, health and welfare in the educational institute
- Roles and responsibilities for safety, health and welfare
- Risk assessment
- Emergency procedures, fire safety, first-aid, accidents and dangerous occurrences
- Instruction, training and supervision
- Communication and consultation
The Employee should measure, monitor and evaluate its safety, health and welfare management system to make sure it is robust. This can be done in simple ways. For example, performance can be measured against agreed standards such as:
- legislative requirements;
- the educational institute safety, health and welfare policy and the written risk assessments contained in the safety statement;
- safety, health and welfare objectives, as part of the educational institute plan.
This will reveal when and where improvement is needed and how effectively the HSSE is functioning.
Educational institute management should establish procedures to monitor the educational institute’s performance in promoting safety, health and welfare. This is to ensure that planned actions contained within the educational institute’s safety, health and welfare plan have actually taken place or where they have not that they are scheduled to be addressed.
Monitoring can be achieved in a number of ways, such as periodic reviews at staff meetings and Employee meetings to ensure the safety management system is in operation and the safety, health and welfare statement incorporating risk assessments are in place; formal inspections and checks of all educational institute areas at pre-defined timeframes to establish items arising; inspections and equipment checks on items such as fire detection installations and extraction systems; periodic reviews of accidents, near misses, and dangerous occurrences to establish if corrective action needs to be taken.
The Employee will also check that the safety statement is being implemented and will note any issues arising. Active self-monitoring ensures that any changes in operating conditions, equipment or legislation are taken into account.
Here is a simple checklist to assist with active self-monitoring:
- Is there an agreed schedule outlining areas/ items for inspection?
- Are inspections of the equipment and furniture in the educational institution or on the educational institution grounds carried out before use, on a daily, weekly, monthly, term or annual basis as appropriate?
- Is there a list specifying who will carry out the inspections and what areas are to be inspected, e.g. classrooms, offices, general purpose areas, storage areas, yard and sports hall?
- Does the risk assessment system in place formally track the status of all hazards reported, indicate the control measures required, the action taken to date, responsibility for action and finally, sign-off on completion of tasks?
- Do regular walk-through inspections take place to identify fire hazards or other safety and health hazards as may arise from time to time?
- Is there a preventative maintenance and service programme in place for fixed service installations, machinery, equipment, grounds and buildings?
- Are records regarding the preventative maintenance programme kept?
- Does the “Principal’s Report” to the Employee include information pertaining to the status of the HSSE in the educational institution and other relevant information pertaining to safety, health and welfare?
Audit and review
Auditing and reviewing the Safety Management System by the Employee are the final steps in the management cycle. This step enables the educational institution to maintain and develop its ability to reduce risks and ensure the effectiveness of the system.
The educational institution should evaluate the impact of the safety, health and welfare plan at a pre-determined time, (e.g. per term, annually), taking into account feedback from the educational institution community, significant incidents and/or accidents, dangerous occurrences, new regulatory and legislative requirements and other relevant developments. Information produced from on-going monitoring can be used to review current policies and procedures and so help improve performance.
An annual safety, health and welfare audit should be carried out. This is a comprehensive review and report on all aspects of safety, health and welfare management in the educational institution. Results from audits can be combined with information from measuring performance to improve the educational institution’s overall approach to safety, health and welfare management.
The safety statement should be revised as necessary, in light of the review and evaluation process. All members of the educational institution community should be informed of the full contents of the revised safety, health and welfare statement.
Here is a checklist to assist:
- What procedures are in place to carry out the annual safety, health and welfare audit?
- Is the safety, health and welfare statement reviewed and where necessary amended to reflect changes in the educational institution?
- Is the safety, health and welfare audit part of the regular educational institution self-evaluation and planning process?
Given the significance of any incidents that may occur, the implementation of HSSE is a necessity – the only question that remains is to decide the most optimal and effective way to go about doing so. Whilst this must seem like an enormous undertaking that would require more than 1 full-time staff member to manage, HSSE software solutions can assist with automating much of what is required. They contain modules that allow you to:
- Induct and train
- Report and manage incidents and hazards
- Ensure contractors and suppliers are accredited and certified
- Register and induct all visitors
- Ensure equipment is serviced periodically as required
- Automate audits and tasks as required
Companies like OVS Solutions (Pty) Ltd, the Africa Licensee of the award-winning Rapid Global Software, have been delivering Health & Safety software solutions for over 15 years. Their only business is the continued development and improvement of their software, to make sure that the solutions keep pace with the ever-changing landscape. All their solutions come with mobile apps.
OVS Solutions, the Africa Licensee of Rapid Global, also have a great support team who are available to assist with live demonstrations, user guides and relevant information you may require. They will share their tips on how to best maximize user adoption and can help you deliver on your plan!