Headteachers and school management personnel who are responsible for formulating and implementing effective health and safety measures in schools need to ensure that optimising staff safety is one of their priorities. With new DofE guidelines - and amendments to those guidelines - being issued regularly, it is crucial not to become lost in endless details. Rather, headteachers and school management should focus on implementing a streamlined framework for ensuring good health and safety practice for students, parents and staff. A cost effective telecom solution for the staff members constitutes a fantastic addition to any such framework. This article provides an overview of the different risks associated with the school environment, and highlights the importance of staff safety, with a particular emphasis on the applicability of telecom devices or apps for staff.
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The range of safety issues associated with the school environment
The HSE's recent document, entitled 'Health and Safety: Advice for Schools', details some of the key risks involved for both students and staff in the school environment. It addresses the fact that, though many parents and even staff members perceive that trips abroad are associated with an increased risk of accident, injury or fatality, in fact the reverse is true. Most accidents, injuries and deliberate crimes occur within the school building and its sports fields. Common accidents include slips and trips, as well as chemical burns in school laboratories.
The HSE's report highlights the fact that contact sports such as rugby present the greatest risk to students whilst on the school premises. However, risks to staff come predominantly from the parents and students themselves in the form of assaults both physical and verbal. Incidences of crimes perpetrated by intruders (such as the theft of ITS equipment and laboratory equipment by opportunist thieves entering the school through a window or poorly secured door) are also higher than desirable. In sum, there are a range of risks at play in the school building, and head teachers and school business managers should be aware of, and equipped to combat, them all. These comprise both accidents and deliberate incidents, internal risks and external risks, and risks to students, staff and school property.
The need to ensure that staff safety is a priority
Unfortunately, school staff are all too frequently exposed to risks whilst in the workplace. These risks include accidental injuries such as slips, trips and falls and burns, shocks or strains from lifting or operating improperly maintained equipment. A large proportion of the risks that school staff are exposed to derive from pupils and their parents, with physical assault perpetrated by students or their parents being a common cause of injury to staff members. Whilst a certain amount of risk from unexpected accidents such as slips or trips tends to be unavoidable in any workplace, it is unacceptable that any staff member should be placed at risk of assault. For this reason, measures should be taken to ensure staff safety in schools, particularly with regard to staff members who teach pupils with behavioural issues.
How a cost-effective telecommunications solution can help to optimise staff safety
Introducing a telecommunications solution that enables staff members to alert designated personnel to any injuries they have suffered or risks they have noticed will help to promote higher levels of staff safety in schools. Such a solution should be integrated with other safety measures such as health and safety training for staff (the HSE's aforementioned report notes that lack of adequate training is itself a major risk, particularly after the 2013 introduction of the amended Schools Standards Regulations which removes the need for school management to have access to personalised and specific health and safety guidelines) and the use of equipment such as visible body cameras to record and deter instances of assault. Many school staff would in fact fall under the definition of lone workers, and telecom based solutions are increasingly considered to be an essential aspect of ensuring lone worker safety.
Being in possession of all of the facts is a crucial first step in formulating the best possible health and safety strategies for your school. Every school building and management system is unique, so your health and safety strategy ought to be tailored to suit the particular demands of your school. This includes any decisions that you make about the implementation of telecom equipment which, as we have seen, can be an essential ingredient for ensuring staff safety in schools.